You spend all your free time writing. You’re so proud of all the work you’ve accomplished. So proud, in fact—as you should be—that you gather up enough confidence to submit your work somewhere. A query letter to an agent. A pitch to a magazine. Etcetera, etcetera.
It feels good! Until you get rejected.
Sometimes it’s an email. Sometimes it’s silence. Whatever the format, it hurts. It leaves dents in our confidence and makes us question why we should keep writing, even when no one else seems to think it’s worth anything.
Stop right there. This is your guide to bouncing back, before you start doubting yourself.
Adopt the “it’s not me, it’s them” mindset
A rejection letter—or no response at all—often has less to do with you, your query letter and/or your story itself and more to do with timing and fit. Sometimes a story just won’t fit in with what an agent, publication or organization is looking for at your chosen time of submission. You might submit a great story—but they just can’t work with it.
Does this mean you should give up on that piece you worked so hard on? Of course not. You can look for other places to submit it, or do some revisions if you think they’re necessary. But don’t dwell on it, either. Focusing all your energy and attention on a story no one will take will only hurt you.
So what do you do in the meantime, while seeing if any other leads play out?
Pick up other projects to keep up your momentum
Whether you hunt for some freelance work, return to a project you put aside at an earlier date or start something completely new, sometimes it’s healthy to file away your rejected work for a little while.
It doesn’t mean you’re giving up on it—it just means you care about it enough to want to take the time to decide what to do with it … while still doing what you can to, you know, make enough money to feed, clothe and house the body that supports the brain that comes up with all your ideas.
Moving on from one rejected project, whether temporarily or permanently, doesn’t mean you wasted your time creating it. The exact opposite, in fact.
Realize everything you write has a purpose, even if it never gets published
Every single thing you write has just as much value as every single minute a musician practices her instrument: it matters. It makes a difference. It’s harder to measure your own improvement as a writer than it is to hear your flute playing suck a little less every week, but it’s the same concept. Not a single ounce of effort is wasted.
So that short story you spent weeks of your time on, writing, revising, sharing with a few close friends, revising some more … only to have it ignored? It’s not the last short story you’re ever going to write. Every story you write following that one will be, overall, a little bit better than the one before it. You won’t always write masterpieces. But the more you write, the better you perform. Even if no one ever reads what you’ve written, it’s part of your journey to refining your voice. It. Is. Worth. It.
Rejection teaches us to accept that not everyone likes the same things we dol. Not everyone agrees with us. Not everyone has the same opinions. It’s a life skill. When it comes to writing, rejection is the ultimate motivator. Yes, it’s devastating at first. But after a awhile, you might start treating each “no” as a challenge. They didn’t like it. Maybe someone else will. Maybe it just needs a little tweaking.
As long as you never give up on your passion, you will make it through this.
Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.