No one likes to be rejected. But for writers, rejection is part of the trade. Anyone who has ever been published has also been rejected, and many of us trying to get published worry that rejections are all that we’re ever going to see. How do we deal with the constant barrage of negativity that rejections bring? How does one cope with the discouragement and setbacks? Below I’ve laid out the six steps I take every time I receive a rejection. They work for me, hopefully they’ll work for you too!
- Don’t take it personally
This is the hardest step and that’s why I’ve put it first. Of course you’re going to take it personally – you put yourself out there and someone rejected you, how else are you supposed to take it? The best thing you can do for yourself when dealing with rejection is to take a moment and work past those initial feelings of defensiveness and pain by realizing that the people who rejected your work don’t even know you. They don’t! They don’t know that you make great pasta or that you have a beautiful smile or that you are a wonderful parent or any of the stuff that really matters and makes you a person. All they saw was a small snippet of your work and they rejected it for any number of reasons: it didn’t fit for the issue they were putting together, it was good, but someone else’s piece was just a little bit better, or who knows? They didn’t reject it because you’re a bad person or a bad writer. Until you can convince yourself of that, you’re not going to be able to move forward.
- Feel what you’re feeling
All that being said, don’t bottle up your emotions and put them to one side because you ‘know you shouldn’t be feeling this way’. If you feel disappointed or sad or upset, give yourself time and space to really be disappointed or sad or upset. You can’t ignore your feelings to make them go away. That will only make them worse.
- Walk it Off
This goes hand in hand with not bottling up your emotions. Any time I get a rejection, I go for a walk. Let me tell you, I go for A LOT of walks. If walking isn’t your physical exercise of choice, go kick boxing, or go lift some weights – whatever you do that gets your blood pumping and your pores sweating, do it after you get a rejection. Exercising releases endorphins and endorphins is something you’ll be badly in need of after a ‘no’ comes through your door.
- Talk it Out
If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do when you get a rejection is tell other people about it. That’s shame talking and shame is poisonous. It’s going to take some mental reframing and it’s not going to feel natural, but I highly encourage you to share your failures as readily and openly as you do your successes. You know why? Because you TRIED SOMETHING. You had the guts to put yourself out there and try, and that’s something worth celebrating, even if it didn’t work out this time. Also, a side benefit of talking about your failures is that other people can help make you feel better! Don’t go bottling up those emotions! If you feel crushed, let someone know so they can validate your feelings and try to help. You don’t have to go through this alone.
- Review the piece
Once you’ve done the steps above, now would be a good time to review the piece you submitted for consideration. See if there are any tweaks or edits you would make. If you were lucky enough to get a rejection with some feedback, you should definitely see if you can incorporate that feedback into the work itself. Spend some more time with your work, but not so much that it starts to drive you crazy. If you review it, and you still feel confident that it’s as good as you can make it, then there’s only one thing left to do.
- Try again
This is the second hardest thing to do after being rejected and it’s why I put it last. After you’ve been hurt, the last thing you want to do is go back for seconds. It’s insane, why would anyone put themselves through a painful process over and over again? Well, they say all writers are a little crazy and here’s the proof: in order to do what we do we have to consistently put ourselves out there and risk rejection. It’s the only way we grow and it’s the only way our work is ever going to be recognized.
But if anyone takes anything from this piece, I want it to be this: your writing can be rejected a hundred times, a thousand times, a hundred thousand times; and your value as a human being is not diminished by one iota. Getting published or not getting published, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter – what matters is all the little things we do every day that make us who we are. No rejection can ever take those things away from us.