Let’s face it: rejection stings. The most tactful ‘no, thank you’ from an agent or editor can make us feel like a jilted lover, hurt and alone. The dreaded form letter rejection reduces us to nameless obscurity, and can destroy a sensitive writer’s teetering confidence.
If we’re to move forward again, we need to figure out how to heal our bruised ego. Here are seven constructive ways to rebuild confidence after a painful rejection.
Like a virus, rejection damages the psyche. We need to doctor ourselves. Treat yourself to dark chocolate or a glass of white wine. If you prefer a physical release – scream, cry, swear, punch a bag, go out for a run. Go ahead and write that cathartic letter. Give the agent or editor a piece of your mind; cite in bold block letters the idiocy of rejecting your work – then hit the delete key. Or throw the letter away. Never, ever hit send.
Take 24 hours
When the time is up, however you feel, go back to your desk.
Remember: decisions are often related to taste or circumstance. We tend to think of rejection as an objective assessment of the quality of our work. Sometimes that’s true – and sometimes decisions are purely subjective. Maybe the agent dislikes your genre or prefers a different writing style; perhaps the editor recently bought a piece similar to yours. Unless you’re one of the lucky few to receive an explanation, you’ll never know why your work was rejected. If you believe in the piece, feel it has merit, let the rejection go and move on.
The work was rejected, not you. You are an individual, separate from your work. Sure, rejection feels personal; usually, it’s not. Agents and editors reject work for any number of reasons. Unless you blatantly violate a rule – ignore submission instructions, for instance – or send sloppy or poorly edited work, the rejection is not a reflection on you.
Remind yourself of previous successes
Take a page from the athlete’s’ notebook: learn from mistakes and move on. The greatest hitters in baseball bat well under .500 – they strike out more than half the time.
Focus on all you’ve done well. Draw up a list of successes; keep it handy and pull it out whenever you need an adrenaline lift.
Maintain a supportive network
Writing is a lonely profession, and that loneliness wears on us. Supportive friends can buoy our spirits, pull us out of the depths. Share your everyday life with a friend, lover or spouse. Share writing woes with a trusted writer friend, who understands the nuances of the business and can offer advice, and be sure to return the favor graciously.
A friend offered this advice, and it’s among the best I’ve received: as soon as a rejection arrives, reprint and send the piece out again. Never rely on a single work to make you or allow one unsold piece to break you. Work on multiple pieces; if you always have something in the mail, you’ll have hope.
Rather than focus on hurt feelings and negativity, think of rejection as a call to action. Use it to motivate yourself to improve. Read the rejected piece closely or ask a trusted friend to assess it for you: what are its strengths and weaknesses? Figure out where you need to improve and then do it. Work on becoming the best you can be. Learn, practice – and reach for the stars.
This article first appeared on Erin Reel’s terrific blog, The Lit Coach. Read the original post.