The Mark Blog

RETHINKING REJECTION

I haven’t yet met a writer who enjoys getting a rejection letter. Over the years, I’ve heard lots of tips about dealing with rejection so that it doesn’t crush your soul into small fragments. I wish I could attribute the following advice to its sources. Please believe me when I say they come from good sources—published authors, produced playwrights, writing teachers, and professors. These are people who have been around the block.

Accept your feelings.
Rejection is going to sting some days more than others. Give yourself room to be disappointed, hurt, angry, whatever. Don’t deny how you feel. Even the most positive people are affected by rejection. But then they get back to creating.

Move forward.
The chips are stacked against you. There are many people out there writing and there isn’t enough room to publish each and every piece. Acknowledge this but don’t let it weigh you down. If you’re in the process of sending something off, start up another project. In this way, you’re not concentrating all of your energy in placing a story or landing an agent. Each time you go back to your notebook or computer and show up to do your work you are making movement forward. You’re moving forward with the project as well as developing your craft. You’re making yourself, and your writing, better.

Sheer volume.
If you don’t send your work out, then you’re not giving yourself a fair chance. Over the years I have heard that the average published story is rejected twenty-plus times before it is accepted. Gone with the Wind was rejected by more than 20 publishers. C.S. Lewis sent out more than 800 times before he made a sale. Keep being consistent and keep sending out.

Don’t give up.
Early on in my writing career, a college professor told me she had seen many talented writers fall to the wayside because they stopped writing or sending out. They were bogged down by the nos. Over time I have seen this happen. Don’t become overwhelmed by the negativity.

Hang on to positive rejections.
Not all rejections are created equal. If there is a personalized, scrawled note on your rejection, hang on to it. The digital equivalent is an email which compliments your writing specifically and encourages you to send more material. The slush piles are huge. The editor doesn’t have time to personalize rejections, so take their invitation and send them more work—when it’s ready, of course.

A shift in perception.
Every rejection gets you closer to a yes. This is true. In many ways, it is a numbers game. Not each story is for each editor. Even if you’ve written a fine story or book, there will be people out there that feel it’s not their cup of tea. This is nothing personal. It happens all the time. Haven’t you picked up a book others have raved about, only to put it down at page fifty, unable to continue?

Writing abounds with rejection. It’s a fact. You can’t let yourself get defeated by it. What you focus on tends to expand, so focus on what you love: the act of writing. Pay attention to your craft, to the word on the page. Make it the best you can, and when you’re sure, send it off and stay strong.