Life as a writer is fraught with disappointment. No matter what genre you work in, fiction, journalism, nonfiction, there will be high highs and low lows, days when your editor loves your story, days when your publisher wants three more in the series, days when an agent asks for a full manuscript, and days like I had today.
Rejection, no matter how many times you get it, is a challenge. Rejection on the heels of yet another one of your indie presses closing down, them waters are real choppy. But if I sit at my desk feeling sorry for myself about having missed the indie publishing boat, then I’ll never get anything done. In order to be a writer, you must be capable of weathering these storms – and there will be storms. Rejections happen. Presses shut down. Books don’t sell. This is the industry, the art, and the craft.
So how do we get back up one more time than we are pushed down? Well, after too many rejection letters and setbacks to count, I’ve found a few good tips and tricks to standing a little bit taller.
Lean on Your Team
If you have a very supportive significant other or family member, that’s fantastic. Sometimes a good cry/rage/rant about your situation really is the best way forward. If your family wants to support you and love you, let them. Allowing someone else to shoulder some of your emotions is a healthy way to move forward.
And whether or not your family understands, reach out to your tribe. Writers should have writer friends. Writer friends help support by trading ideas, sharing stories and spreading the word about your book or article. I won’t go into all the reasons we should have writer friends, but one of them is for times like these. Let your writer friends help you take the next step forward, let them help you brainstorm, let them help you within the industry, whichever industry it may be. Family support is wonderful, but other writers can often aid with the well what do I do now?
Dive Right Back In
This is a sometimes piece of advice. Sometimes, the best course of action is to push your piece forward, send it to more agents, pitch your story to more magazines, don’t give up. Sometimes, you want to fight hard and bellow to the skies about your article/story/novel.
But this piece of advice comes with a caveat. Because sometimes your work is getting the same piece of critique time and again. Sometimes you’ve sent out to one hundred places and heard the same thing, if you’ve heard back at all. Sometimes the issue is that your piece isn’t ready yet. That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world, but before you dive back into the deep end, take a quick pulse check and consider why you might be getting these rejection letters. If you don’t see a common theme, then cannonball, baby.
Take a Step Back
But if you do see a common theme, maybe you need a break for that particular piece. Maybe you want to let it sit for a month before rereading it. Maybe you should consider working on another project in the meantime, a new story, a different article, something that diverts your attention for a little while. Most of us aren’t working on just one project at a time, so find a way to move forward on something different to help clear your head.
Try a Different Tactic
Maybe cold-pitching editors at magazines isn’t working for you. Instead, consider searching for magazines looking for content. If editors aren’t taking the bait, try agents. Writing doesn’t have a roadmap and it doesn’t have a guidebook. Because of that, however, you can do things a thousand different ways. If you’re looking to place a fiction book, check out websites like My Manuscript Wishlist and Twitter calls for submissions. There are always, always new ways to find a place for your story. Consulting with your writing tribe can help you to figure out what that next step might be.
Get a Little Mad
Sometimes, the best way to the other side is through. Puff up your chest, pull up your big girl panties and tell yourself that you’re not just going to do it, but you’re going to do it better and bigger than you ever planned to. You’re going to make this next step work. You’re going to write the best-goddamned novel the world has ever seen.
Is it true? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’re not sitting around wallowing. Anger can push us to action in a way that sadness can’t, so use it.
I keep a folder of screenshots of all my rejection letters, from journalism, freelance, agents, publishing houses. All of them. I get the thanks but no thanks email and what do I do?
Well, having that folder can help me to organize my feelings. Sometimes, I’ll let the email sit for a little while. I’ll let it sit, marked unread, and I’ll allow myself to feel every range of emotion and sensation and frustration. But eventually, I’ll go back in, open it back up, type out a polite thank you to the person for their time and candor and send it. Then I will screencap the rejection letter. Once I move that rejection letter from my desktop into the folder, I wash my hands of it.
Sure, I can still be mad and upset, but I have literally filed the rejection away and it is a distant, far off type of problem, because now I can officially move forward. Find the best way to compartmentalize your rejection so you can start with a clean slate.
Remember That Rejection Isn’t Personal
There are a lot of reasons a publishing house, magazine or editor might turn down your work. It might look exactly like a book they just signed or an article they just ran. Your voice might be too similar to another author or not close enough to the house style. It could be that vampires are out or that time-travel books are saturated on the market right now.
Even if you do get the indication that they don’t want your manuscript or article because they don’t want your manuscript or article, remember that this is a rejection of one story, one project, one idea, not every idea, story or project you’ve ever come up with, and certainly not you as a person. Even in the nicest corners of the writing field, rejections happen. No one is actively trying to hurt your feelings, they’re just doing what they think is best for their company. But who you are as a person is not on trial. You’re great and you’ll be able to move forward from this.
This part, it sucks. I’ve spoken about it before and I’ll probably speak about it again in the future. Rejection is hard, it hurts and sometimes getting up isn’t so much fun anymore. But you’re not the first person to get rejected or face a setback and you won’t be the last. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Sylvia Plath, Vladimir Nabokov, Kurt Vonnegut. Let’s just say we’re in good company. And just remember, one day, hopefully, one day very soon, you’ll be able to look back on these days and laugh.♦