You’ll Carry Your First Rejection With You Forever — and That’s OK

You’ve grown a lot since then. Never forget that.

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Do you remember your first-ever rejection as an aspiring writer? I’d be surprised if you didn’t.

Mine was possibly the worst type of rejection — the “we’re just never going to respond to you” variety. I was 14, really into the whole Chicken Soup for the Soul genre of personal essays. I spent weeks perfecting mine. Submitting it was one of the most exciting moments of my life.

Of course, I didn’t really expect to have my essay published. (That was a first that wouldn’t happen until two years later.) But I did expect some kind of reply — even a generic “thanks, but we’ve gone with another submission” would have sufficed.

But no. I just waited for an email for a really long time, until I guess I just moved on.

Looking back, it didn’t have a huge impact on my life — it probably wasn’t even that good of an essay, and flipping through my mortifyingly large collection of Chicken Soup books (yes, I kept them), having something published in one of those books didn’t really say much about how good of a writer you were.

Clearly, though, I haven’t forgotten that lack of reply — still technically a rejection, in its own way. I don’t think you ever truly do. I also don’t think you should.

You already know that getting rejected is just part of the deal. You wish it weren’t — we all do — but I highly doubt anyone sits down to write their first book/essay/blog post and expects it to launch them straight into stardom.

(I’m sure it happens SOMETIMES, but don’t count on it.)

Just because you know it’s part of a “real” writer’s journey doesn’t make it easier to deal with. Rejection hurts. It absolutely sucks, and I’m definitely not here to tell you otherwise. If you’re reading this because you’re in the midst of post-rejection grief, I’m sorry. This isn’t fun. But I’m here for you. We all are.

When you think back on your first rejection as a writer, what do you feel? Whether it was a long time ago or just last week, do you feel angry? Defeated? Confused? Sad? All of the above?

Probably not. You might have felt those things when it first happened. I’m sure I carried around some disappointment after the Chicken Soup for the Soul people ignored my heartfelt plea to let me tell my story.

But now … now you realize how much you’ve grown.

Maybe you’re still bouncing from rejection from rejection, trying to make this whole writing thing worth your hours of effort.

Maybe you’re actually making some money as a writer, and things are starting to work out.

You don’t remember past rejections to feel sad. You remember them because remembering reminds you that you are past the worst of it.

Back then, no one knew who you were. For all you know, the sole reason you got rejected could have been because you’d never submitted anything to anyone in your whole life before that moment.

Look. How. Far. You’ve. Come.

You’re amazing.

You’re not writing little essays anymore. You’re SOMEBODY.

Well, more of a somebody than you were. Assuming you’re doing all you can to get your work out there — and if you’re not there yet, well, you’ve come to the right place. I can [help you] fix that.

Rejection happens. But it’s part of, shall we say, growing up.

You face them head-on. You let yourself grieve. And then you just keep writing.

It worked for me. It’ll work for you, too. Eventually.


Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.


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9 thoughts on “You’ll Carry Your First Rejection With You Forever — and That’s OK

  1. I received to rejections this week – form letters. Not sure if you are acquainted with those. It’s a generic they send out to everybody thanking them for considering their agency and assuring that they will give the submission the upmost consideration. They add, if you haven’t heard anything in two weeks, we’re not interested. I hate those, they are so impersonal and don’t give you anything to work with.

    I do think your attitude and response make all the difference in the world. I feel the initial disappointment, but then I move on motivated to try even harder.

    1. Oh, I’ve gotten more of those kinds of rejections than I can count. So sorry you’re carrying that weight this week. :( Ugh. Not fun, but at least you’re trying …

  2. The ‘no answer’ rejections are the worst :( Thanks for the encouraging twist on the process! (I can use it- hopefully diving back into querying next month. ugh!)

  3. My favorite form rejections are the ones that take the tiny extra step to remind you that this business is very subjective. Here are some of my favorite lines I’ve racked up. At least they’re all very nice!

    – Our business is subjective by nature and another agent may well feel differently. I wish you the best of luck.
    – We wish you all the best in finding more suitable representation, encourage you to query widely, and thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work.
    – Please know that we are very selective with the materials that we request. We encourage you to keep writing and we wish you every success
    – As I’m sure you know, the publishing industry changes swiftly now, as do readers’ tastes and trends. As a result, our own agents’ needs shift and change, as well; therefore, we would like to encourage you to consider querying us with future projects as you may deem appropriate.

    1. Yep – I’ve seen many of these. I’ve also had to submit rejection letters like these before, as an editor. Trust me, they’re as painful to write/send as they are to receive. :(

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