I had to do a training exercise at work once where I asked a colleague about her favourite thing in the world then, while she was telling me about it, suddenly lost interest and completely blanked her. She wasn’t happy to say the least, I think if she’d had a blunt object to hand I would have been on my way to A and E.
The point, we were told, was to show how your reaction to people you are dealing with can affect how they feel about you. I kind of knew that after 20 odd years in journalism, but it was still a stark reminder. She was cross with me for the rest of the day I‘d say, even though she knew it hadn’t been real.
I’m guessing the way she was feeling right then was how most of us feel when our beloved manuscripts get rejected by publishers, agents, magazine editors, competition judges and the rest of the queue of people waiting in line to crush our dreams.
I’ve had more rejections than I can remember on my way to the successes I have also enjoyed – so here’s my tool kit for dealing with them.
It’s ok to be angry or upset
I don’t think it does any good to bottle these things up. If you feel brassed off or gutted that you have been ignored or passed over then admit it to yourself – have a rant to a close personal or the bathroom mirror – whatever it takes. Acknowledge your emotions.
Put it in perspective
Nobody’s died. Nothing in your life has got worse. One thing has not gone your way, but that hasn’t affected anything else. You still have what you had before and you still have opportunities ahead of you.
Grow a thick skin
It helps if your pre-prepare for disappointment, and nothing aids that like having a fat wad of rejection slips already in your bottom drawer. I remember when I first started sending short stories out to competitions and magazines and getting rejections, or complete silence, in return, I was upset. Now – not so much. The power rejection has over you wears off in time. I think you grow calluses eventually and you realise that, in the scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. It’s just a step on the road.
Learn from it
I like to say that being rejected has helped me as a writer – and I really believe that. I was talking to a creative writing tutor recently who told me her young students were often angry and disbelieving when their work was rejected, they felt it had been a mistake – their work was wonderful, how could it have been passed over? They were often quite arrogant about it. I remember being like that too. Rejection slips are a salutary lesson that you can improve as a writer and that you are not the finished article.
Use it as an incentive
Rework the piece which got rejected and make it better, then try it somewhere else. At the same time, start writing something new. Use your experience to grow as a writer, and make something positive out of the negative emotions which come with rejection.
There are plenty of other potential homes for your work out there. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right outlet for your writing. That’s particularly true when you are looking for a publisher for a novel I think. Publishers are often very specific about what they take on, your work might not have been right for their list, it might be right for someone else’s.
Never give up
Never. Ever. You are doing a remarkable thing by producing creative work and it will only get better the more you practice your craft. There are no guarantees you will get the recognition you deserve but the harder you work the luckier you get.
So those are my tips for dealing with writing rejection – tell me yours?
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