If you write, you will be rejected. Certainly.
You will be criticized, and your writing will be subject to opinions and perspectives you feel have no business tainting your prose.
But rejection will flow like a surging river nonetheless, sweeping up unwitting inhabitants along the way. What you need, then, is not to learn how to avoid or fix rejection but to live with it.
Instead of rejection, you’ll need to see redirection.
And, as put brilliantly by Neil Gaiman, author of Coraline, rejection is what pushes us to the rising edge of our skillset:
“It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn’t
allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of
wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the
keyboard muttering, ‘Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!’ and then
writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will
disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because
there’s nothing left to write.” -Neil Gaiman, on his blog
Step Away & Zoom Out
The cold sting of rejection can make you feel like you’re drowning. The urge to buckle down, overanalyze, and “fix” things is intoxicating.
But what’s often far more productive is taking a step back – not to distance yourself, but to see things from a different perspective.
Create a robust life outside of writing.
If writing is one of the few (or perhaps the only) things that give you joy, that’s okay. But it’s important to have parts of your life that matter to you just as much.
Have other passions, hobbies, or people that bring you purpose. That way, rejection won’t feel like such an attack on your personhood.
Pursue your non-writing dreams. Go on adventures. Experience the world fully and with intention. You’ll probably be inspired to grow as a writer, too.
Take some time to think.
You might feel the urge to react immediately to rejection, but try your best to slow your roll. Even your internal reaction (“Of course they didn’t like it, what did I expect?”) counts here.
The way you respond to this challenge can define your career as a writer. What we mean is not that you must bounce back immediately but that your ability to process your feelings can be a key determiner of your success.
Don’t undermine what you’re feeling, but don’t give too much power to it, either. You may want to immediately shelf your project or launch into a complete revision, but make a choice to hit pause instead.
Sit with your feelings and take the time to hear them out. Maybe you’ll find an underlying truth that guides you toward the changes that will bring success.
Remember that you aren’t alone.
It might seem like there are published and thriving writers all around you, but in truth, there are far more wearing the same pair of shoes you are.
It helps to recognize that rejection happens to everyone who tries to write. Even your heaviest, most hurtful and demoralizing rejection is likely shared by thousands of others who received the same typewritten response.
Many of us tend to isolate ourselves when we write. We may retreat to our favorite coffee shop to bunker down in a caffeinated writing frenzy for hours at a time or lock ourselves in our bedrooms to grind.
And there is something extremely personal about writing; you’re producing original thoughts that come directly from your mind, the one place that’s truly and wholly your own.
But all that isolation can make it easy to forget that we aren’t alone. Writers need a support system just like anyone else.
Talking to other writers, our friends, and our loved ones can give us some much-needed perspective on the situation.
Thicken Your Skin
Feedback and rejection are the bread and butter in any writer’s pantry. Learning to accept them as they are and move forward is a skill that will set you up for success.
To do that, though, you’ll need to learn how to process rejection without letting it impact you profoundly.
Set expectations and let them guide you.
Before you put your work out there, it helps to establish some expectations.
What do you hope will happen, and what is your threshold for making it a reality? At what point will you allow yourself to stop, reflect, and refine your approach?
It might also benefit you to develop a certain number of rejections you’re willing to face before you move on.
Sometimes, the simple act of preparing for the worst is all it takes to make what might be seen as “rejection” feel like a pat on the back.
Don’t take it personally.
A rejection of your writing is not a rejection of your intellect, your voice, or your story.
The problem is that an agent, editor, or client doesn’t have the time or capacity to guide writers to their ideal point. Instead, they must issue a verdict based on what’s in front of them.
So don’t view rejection as a sign that you’re not a good writer. View it as a sign that one particular piece didn’t hit the mark for one particular reader.
Both you and your reader can be justified in your opinion without invalidating the other.
Always stay gracious.
Never burn any bridge you encounter. Respond to all emails, memos, and comments graciously and with gratitude.
Remember that no one job, agent, or deal has to be the end-all-be-all. A lot of what will determine your success as a writer has little to do with finding the “perfect” gig and everything to do with how many times you try.
Each connection is one you can utilize down the road as you strive to find what fits you best.
Stick to Your Guns
Don’t let rejection make you question your story or value as a writer. You can accept its merit without sacrificing your confidence and commitment to your craft.
Let it go and move on.
Once you’ve written something and put it out there, it’s not truly “yours” anymore. It belongs to the reader.
And the reader can interpret your piece however they need to at that time. So, even if you don’t love the way they read it, your response should always be one of gratitude.
Once your writing is done, move it to a different compartment in your mind and give it away. Let it leave your life and enter that of a reader.
Wasting time trying to justify your choices to readers or editing out things someone didn’t like won’t do you any good. You may please a picky reader, but only at the expense of your own confidence.
Try a new approach.
If one approach to meet your goal isn’t working, try another.
For instance, if querying a novel isn’t scoring you a ton of hits, try making social media content about your book and promoting it that way. Instead of a different story, you may just need a different strategy.
There is always someone out there who can connect with what you’re sharing.
While rejection is never enjoyable to encounter, it is a necessary evil that will push you to create the best writing possible. View it as a friend, not an enemy or a judge.
The best writers are those who can face rejection and respond to its demands.
At Inkless, we know how vital it is to process our tough moments as readily as our successes. Our years of experience creating engaging content for the web have taught us immeasurable amounts about connection, innovation, and perseverance.
Our team never misses a deadline, and we tailor our services to meet your goals, no matter what they look like.
To see our skills in action, start a conversation with us via LinkedIn, our website, or email@example.com.