I thought I already wrote about this and even if I did, you can never say too much about rejection, because rejection is a way of life for a writer. It’s something to be gotten used to because if you don’t, you become paralyzed, never sending your work out, never entering contests that intrigue you or never going for writing jobs you desire.
I hate rejection. Everyone hates rejection.
Many of you know that Pen on Fire went through a couple of agents and a couple dozen rejections before I revised, revised, revised and found my current agent who then proceeded to sell my book. The magazine, Personal Writing, published by publisher that puts out Writer’s Digest, just published my essay called “Lessons Learned,” which recounts my book’s path to publication.
I almost tossed my manuscript and gave up forever when I thought I’d give it one more try. That one more try was the clincher.
I’ve collected hundreds of rejection letters from magazines, literary journals, agents and publishers. I’ve tossed most of them out except for a few very detailed letters from the New Yorker in which they actually told me why they were rejecting my stories and to submit again.
Having a book published doesn’t make you immune to the terror of rejection. I almost didn’t submit my book for consideration in the American Society of Journalists and Authors annual contest, but I was able to talk myself into it. What if I lose? I thought. This time I got lucky and won. Doesn’t mean I’ll be so lucky next time. See? The fear of rejection doesn’t go away and it doesn’t grow smaller.
You just keep on keeping on, because what else is there to do? Fold in upon yourself and dissolve? No can do.
I have a chapter in Pen on Fire about rejection, and I’m doing a talk at the Willamette Writers Conference this August on dealing with rejection. Our fear of it stretches back to childhood, to when we were rejected for something else, something unrelated to writing.
You can deal with rejection a lot of different ways. Burn those rejection letters. Or wad them up and throw them away. Or write a charming note to the editor or agent who rejected you (so says Carolyn See).
But I think the best way of dealing with rejection is to write your way through it. In my book, actually in the chapter on fear, I excerpted a few sentences from Dune, by Frank Herbert:
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Those few lines have gotten me through, many a time.
Take heart and don’t let rejection stop you. Learn from it. Learn to decipher what the rejection letters are really saying. And move on, allow yourself to progress and eventually you will be victorious.