Rejection sucks. No bones about it. And it sucks for every writer, whether you’re pre-published or world-famous. The prolific Isaac Asimov once said, “Rejection slips, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil — but there is no way around them.”
It’s easy to lose heart in the face of rejection letters. After all, we tend to take it personally, even if we know it’s a rejection of the work, not us. It still feels personal. So how do we deal with it? Here are three methods that may help…
1. Let yourself mope.
If you try to suppress your disappointment — or worse, beat yourself up over it — you’re only creating more trouble. Instead, fully allow yourself to wallow in despair, at least for a while. Eat that pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Binge-watch Parks and Recreation. Have yourself a proper pity party — but just be sure to set an expiration date to it. After a day or two of wallowing, take up whatever practice gets you out of your rut, whether exercise, meditation, or playing music.
2. TRY to get rejected.
Paradoxically, getting rejected may actually be good for you. Its sting can make you more determined to prove yourself and give you incentive to prove those shortsighted agents and editors wrong. When you’re rejected, it reminds you that you can’t take success for granted and that you have to fight for what you want. Forward motion is the key. Sylvia Plath said, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
You might even try Jason Comely’s “rejection therapy.” Because of his social anxiety, he challenged himself to spend a year getting rejected every day, in order to get past his fears. He’d ask strangers for a ride across town, ask for a discount before purchasing something, and so on. By seeking out rejection every day, he became desensitized to it. Rejection lost its ability to paralyze him.
3. Remember your “why.”
As in, “Why do I want to do this; why is it important to me?” It’s important to set goals and know the “what” of what you want to achieve, but without a strong enough “why,” you may not feel motivated enough to push through rejection.
So after collecting yet another rejection slip, ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” And once that answer comes, stay in touch with it. Jot it on a Post-it note by your computer. Or have it scroll across the screen as your screen saver.
My initial “why” was “because I’ve always wanted to get published, and I’ll regret it if I never achieve this goal.” Now that I’m well published, my why has shifted to “because I want to inspire reluctant readers to read, as I know this will enrich their lives.”
One last thing that helps battle rejection is finding supportive friends on the same path — writers who will listen to your tales of woe and encourage you to get back on track. Writers groups are a great source for understanding friends.
Above all else, hang in there. And remember: persistence is more important than talent!