Five Ways to Deal with Rejection

J. L. Harland • November 19th, 2020

As former academics we are not exactly immune to rejection but are not too disturbed by it. If you submit a paper to an academic journal it will be peer reviewed, might be rejected and, if accepted, invariably comes with changes required - notes on content, references and so on. Sometimes this process occurs a couple of times before the long wait for publication.

Creative writing is a different game though. Your words are more precious, and you have sweated over them to try and create something new, something different. It’s a piece of your soul. Or is it? One of the great things about writing together is the joy of editing and making things better. It doesn’t matter who has written which passage, chapter or sentence. If it has to go then - farewell. Just words.

It’s not easy sending your work out there. Some people never do. Writing mainly for themselves, they don’t need anyone to read what they’ve written. Of course, that way they don’t suffer from rejection. Other people take it as a personal insult that their carefully crafted masterpiece hasn’t been greeted with instant success and acclaim when they submit it to an agent, publisher or competition.

We belong to two writing groups and construction criticism is welcomed. What may seem clear to you (after all it’s all in your head) may be confusing to the reader. It helps to develop that thick skin that enables you to prepare for rejection. Remember that rejection is part of the process of finding an audience for your work. It doesn’t mean your writing is awful. Perhaps it’s just not suitable for the person you pitched it to. The worst rejections are when you do not even receive acknowledgement that your submission has been read but more people than usual seem to be writing and seeking publication.

On Twitter last year someone decided a good challenge would be to see if they could get one hundred rejections in the space of a set period of time. To be rejected means you have to send your words out there so this was an interesting and motivating challenge. The more you submit, the higher your chances are of acceptance. Keep a list of your submissions and see how it grows.
That’s a rather long preamble to some of the things we discussed so here it is in a nutshell.

1.  Expect rejection. It’s a part of the process.

2.  Develop a thick skin. It’s not personal. Scream and shout about the rejection if you need to and then get back to it.

3.  Don’t give up. Just because your work didn’t find its mark this time, doesn’t mean you can’t write. Keep at it.

4.  Alter and send out again. This is where feedback from a writing group is invaluable. If it doesn’t work. Change it.

5.  Award yourself with a treat if you get a rejection. After all, if you hadn’t been brave enough to send it out there in the first place it wouldn’t have been rejected – and next time could be an acceptance.

Remember, even the most famous writers have had rejections. It’s part of the writing journey. A delay on the way.

Keep on writing!