Let me be blunt. As a writer, you will get rejected.
Sometimes in rather painful ways. As a woman who writes murder mysteries, I can honestly say I’ve gotten a rejection letter because I’m a woman (of course, they didn’t outright say that – but you could tell what their problem was).
In the current economy, you also become close friends with rejection letters. Last week, I probably got over 50 on that front alone.
One of those might have topped the aforementioned rejection letter. Like so…
That’s all the email said.
From an objective standpoint, this is essentially what every rejection letter really says. They just usually sugar coat it in platitudes as a mask. Why? Because rejection isn’t something we like to receive. But as someone who has been on both sides of the rejection letter, I can tell you it’s not something I like to give either.
In fact, writing the rejection letters for All The Petty Myths was my least favorite part of putting that book together. Even if I genuinely didn’t like the story, I detested being the one who had to tell a writer no.
For me, I made them personalized. I wanted to give them something to help them learn and improve. At one point, I wanted to be a teacher. And while I don’t want to do it full time, I find it fulfilling to take opportunities to teach in other ways.
This column, for example.
Some writers print out and keep all of their rejection letters. Personally, I do not. Part of it is for mental health reasons. It’s not good for me to hang on to the rejection. My Inner Critic (see last week’s article) gives me enough negative feedback on a daily basis. I don’t need the reminder of what other people said.
In my brain it equates to the idea of writers not dwelling on poor reviews. Yes, there is feedback there and it may help to acknowledge. But becoming obsessed with it is also a problem.
And all too often, we take this rejection, hold it close to our hearts, and let it affect our writing for days (or even weeks) to come. Why work on this next project when it might be a waste of time?
It might not be.
That story that got rejected because I was a woman? I’ve already found another home for it. And even if I hadn’t, I would have still enjoyed the experience of writing it. It let me explore and research topics I haven’t had a lot of time to examine before.
It was fun to write.
And it was valuable experience. I also wrote it in a time where I wasn’t writing a lot. If nothing else, it helped me put words on the page in a time where I wasn’t.
If you haven’t gotten your first rejection letter as a writer, it’s a matter of time. Sorry to burst your bubble. But I don’t think there is an author out there that can say they’ve made something of their writing career without getting rejected once.
It’s as much a part of the craft of writing as putting words on the page. To me, it’s a learning experience. Sometimes I just wasn’t a good fit alongside other stories. Having put together an anthology together, I better understand what the person on the other side of the email is looking at and for. Sometimes, it really isn’t you or your work – it’s just that your story wouldn’t fit into the tapestry the editor is creating.
Other times, people didn’t follow the guidelines (cough cough hint hint).
There are plenty of reasons rejection letters come. That does not make you any less of a writer. Trust me, I understand how a rejection letter can sting. You were so excited to share this piece of work, and then to have the “Sorry, but it’s a no” email come through can be devastating. Especially if it’s your first one.
Can I be honest with you?
I don’t even remember what my first rejection letter was for. Sitting here, I can’t even tell you when I got it. Or what it said. Something that seems to be a milestone in writing careers is something I’ve long since brushed aside.
That’s what you have to do with rejection. You take it, see if there are any insights that you can use to improve your writing, and move on.
You will get No.
You’ll also get Yes.
But don’t let the former freeze you up and prevent you from getting the latter. That’s a disservice to yourself as a writer, and to anyone who could have read and enjoyed your piece – had you submitted.
Do not let the fear of rejection stop you from submitting a project. Or even from finishing (or starting) it. Embrace the idea that it may get rejected and enjoy the experience. They’re learning experiences.
Allow yourself a bit to be hurt, or even angry. To be honest, I spent a good few hours angry at the letter I got last week. It wasn’t the rejection, it was the blunt and slightly insulting way it was put. It was also the utter lack of professionalism.
Or the grammar. If you’re going to reject someone, at least do so with decent grammar and proper punctuation.
But most of all…
It is okay to feel those things. It’s May. It’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Your feelings towards rejection are valid and it is okay to feel them.
What isn’t okay is allowing those feelings to consume you and stop you from writing more. So take the sting, embrace it, feel it, and then move on.
Getting a no hurts. But it’s worth it to get to a yes.