Here is the simple truth: unless you write only for yourself, and have no interest in seeking publication in any form, you will experience rejection. In the life of a writer there are infinite opportunities for someone to not choose your work. You can be rejected by institutions that offer grants, fellowships, conferences, and MFA programs. Publications such as literary magazines and newspapers can say sorry, not the right fit. You will receive form letter rejections from literary agents and your literary agent will receive every kind of not for me rejections from editors on your behalf. And after you are published, critics, bloggers and readers will reject you. There is no end.
When I experience rejection, I do what I always do when I receive news I don’t like: I make a bowl of buttered popcorn with brewer’s yeast, sit on the couch and cry. Then I text all of my writing friends and artist friends who face this sort of thing on a regular basis and tell them the news. Then I turn to the Internet.
There is some excellent advice from writers online about how to handle rejection. Here are some of my favorites.
Lit Rejections is a wonderful blog. They have a great list of best selling books that were initially rejected, and an excellent collection of famous rejection letters. Follow them on Twitter for daily encouragement.
My two favorite author/bloggers are Chuck Wendig and Delilah Dawson. Both of them tell the painful truth while making you laugh through the tears. You should read everything they write. Here are two excellent posts about dealing with rejection:
THE HELP author Kathryn Stockett has one of my favorite success-after-rejection stories—her book was turned down by 60 agents before she signed with the one who sold THE HELP to Amy Einhorn. Stockett is a role model for persistence
And if a little snark is what gets you over your disappointment, here is a fun piece about rejecting a rejection letter:
Finally, here is my two cents:
Rejection sucks. Let it suck for a day. But keep it in perspective. Don’t let rejection sucks turn into I suck. You don’t suck. You just received a rejection.
After wallowing for a day, see if there is anything in the rejection that is helpful. Did they say they liked the beginning? Good! Now go work on the middle. Did the editor ask you to keep submitting? DO THIS. They wouldn’t say it if they didn’t mean it. Did the grant mention that they received twenty-seven thousand applicants? Apply again next year, but spend some time researching to see if you can find some grants and fellowships that fewer people can apply to, like that grant that is for women over sixty-five who write about fly fishing. There is a grant out there for everyone
Get back to work. This is the most important thing. Nothing good comes out of not working. Just make the popcorn. Popcorn is delicious. And brewer’s yeast is full of B vitamins, which combat depression. The depression you are feeling about the rejection. And after the bowl is empty except for those tooth-cracking unpopped kernels on the bottom, go wash your buttery hands and get back to work. You will feel better. I promise.