If You Want To Be A Writer, You Need To Be Able To Embrace Rejection
As writers, part of our job is to deal with the constant rejection that comes at us. Instead of allowing rejection to destroy our confidence and feelings of self-worth, we must exploit its power and use it for ourselves.
Rejection doesn’t have to be a devastating blow to the ego — it can be a lesson, an encouragement, and a dare to do better. Mostly it’s a message to keep moving forward.
It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting out in your career, or if you are a best-selling author; you’re still going to have to face rejection.
“We all learn lessons in life. Some stick, some don’t. I have always learned more from rejection and failure than from acceptance and success.”
When I was much younger, I wanted to be an actress and a writer, but I wasn’t equipped to deal with rejection of any kind. I didn’t understand that both of those careers came with truckloads of rejection. I was naïve enough to think that somehow, I’d be able to avoid it.
I was scared: of getting hurt, of failing, and of humiliating myself, so I refused to put myself out there. I didn’t go on auditions, I didn’t send out resumes and headshots, and I certainly didn’t share my written work.
I refused to set myself up for rejection.
I did nothing except take classes and wait for success to fall into my lap.
Not surprisingly, success didn’t find me. In fact, success went in entirely the opposite direction of where I was hiding.
No baby-steps to opportunity were made, mostly because I didn’t make them.
I wasn’t being rejected, but I also wasn’t taking any action.
“Wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be rejected is like wanting to be a boxer and not wanting to get punched.”
David Barr Kirtley
Gradually, I realized that I didn’t have the tools I needed to be an actress, but if I focused, I could be a writer, who occasionally performed.
I have always loved personal essays and after taking a few essay-writing classes, I started submitting my pieces to newspapers and media sites.
At first, I felt encouraged because I received more acceptances than rejections.
This was going to be easy.
I was experiencing a false sense of security so that when I finally did get rejected, I was shattered.
The tide had turned, and I was getting rejected way more often than accepted.
I felt tremendous pain with every rejection, and it would take me days before I could gather up enough courage to send another pitch. Once I had sent my pitch, I’d be in agony until I got a response.
If the response was ‘thanks but no thanks,’ it would take me a month to process the rejection and get to a point where I was able to possibly send another pitch.
My writing career was more emotionally fraught than in my romantic life.
We all have dream publications and mine was “Salon.” I knew people who had their pieces published there, and besides, my favorite writer, Anne Lamott was closely associated with it.
I didn’t feel as if I was taking a chance by pitching “Salon”— it was practically a done deal.
I didn’t know that I hadn’t earned the right to be overly confident and smug.
My pitch was rejected within an hour of my hitting send.
What I had believed about myself and the world tipped sideways and any bravado or confidence I had disappeared.
Was this a sign that I should stop?
If I was a real writer, they’d have accepted my piece.
The editor must have read my pitch and decided that she hated my writing…hated me…hated us both.
The sensible part of my brain was arguing with the emotional part of my heart. My head wanted me to be logical and keep trying, while my heart didn’t want to take the chance of another rejection.
The question was should I see the rejection as a message that I should give up or as a push to keep trying?
I wrote a new pitch and it was rejected as well.
The second time around made something click inside my brain and rather than giving up, I became more determined to get an acceptance from them.
The rejection became a challenge.
I didn’t care how many rejections I got; I was going to keep on pitching until one finally resonated with the editor.
After sending my 12th pitch, I prepared myself for another rejection. However, this time was different — she’d accepted my piece for publication.
I was thrilled and a bit relieved that I didn’t have to send the 13th pitch.
While 12 rejections may seem like a lot; if you look at the big picture, it’s not so many. The rejection/acceptance practice is a numbers game.
The more you pitch, the more you get rejected, but the more you get accepted too.
Successful writers don’t run from rejection; they chase it down and make it work for them. Determined writers control the narrative and embrace rejection because they understand that without it; they can’t have acceptance.
When it comes to rejection, go on the offensive. Track it down, get used to how it feels, and then use it for motivation.
Rejection is only as strong as the power that you give it. You’re the one who gets to decide if the act of being rejected is a negative or positive force in your life.
Some people don’t just tolerate rejection when it happens to them; they try to get as much of it as possible.
In her great essay, “Why you should aim for 100 rejections a year,” Writer Kim Liao talks about looking at rejection as something to go for, not shy away from. “Collect rejections. Set rejection goals. I know someone who shoots for one hundred rejections in a year because if you work that hard to get so many rejections, you’re sure to get a few acceptances too.”
With each rejection you get, the tougher you become, so over time, it loses its ability to hurt you. You’ll get better with your pitches, queries, and submissions just by channeling the energy from that rejection into positive action.
Don’t look at it as proof that you suck or as a sign you need to do something else. On the contrary, how you handle rejection is one of the surest ways to know that you’re a writer and you’re on the right path.
Learning how to respond favorably to rejection takes practice, so make rejection goals. If you think 100 rejections in a year is overwhelming, make it one rejection a week, that’s 52 rejections a year.
It won’t take very many rejections for it to lose its power to hurt you or derail you from your goals.
My friend remarked the other day that I used to be completely obliterated when I got rejected, but now, I shrug it off as if it’s a minor annoyance.
Rejection doesn’t scare me any longer.
Go after rejection with the mindset that it’s there to make you tougher, strengthen your resolve, and that in its own way, it contributes to your future success as a writer.