On Rejection

So let’s talk about rejection.  It’s the inevitable and unpleasant companion in the journey of every writer.  The Rejection Beast walks before us and beside us, it eats up our energy and dogs at our heels and bursts into the room to knock you down when you least expect it.  No writing career is free of it.  It’s only a question of how to handle it.

So, how does one handle it?

Well, like so many aspects of the writing life, the answer is, it depends on the writer.  So if you find yourself with this unwelcome house guest, here are some strategies you can try out.

View rejection from a different angle. This is my preferred strategy.  I look at rejections not as signs of failure but signs that I’m actively sending my stories out into the world.  I may not always succeed, but I am making the attempt.  Trying is better than doing nothing.  After all, the presence of the Rejection Beast in my living room is only a reminder that my front door is open for when Acceptance finally arrives.

Make like a mad scientist and take the “I’ll show them!” route.  This is a good strategy for those who need a little bit more fire in their belly to keep them going.  As Neil Gaiman once famously wrote,

“It does help, to be a writer, to have the sort of crazed ego that doesn’t allow for failure. The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering ‘Okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!’ and then writing something so unbelievably brilliant that all other writers will disembowel themselves with their pens upon reading it, because there’s nothing left to write.”

Granted, Mr. Gaiman probably has less to worry about when it comes to rejection these days.  But using rejection as fuel to push your own improvement and perseverance is a win-win.  It’s a hard climb up the mountain, and sometimes you need to hit the red button and fire up the turbo-boosters.

Get yourself a cheerleader. Let’s face it:  writing is a lonely business, and it’s easy to get deep inside our own heads.  That’s why it’s good to have companions on this road:  beta readers, fellow writers, and cheerleaders.  Sometimes people will fill more than one of these roles for you; but when the Rejection Beast squats in your best writing chair and just Will Not Leave, the cheerleader is there for you, giving you a much-needed boost when you’re feeling down or adrift and the words just aren’t coming out right.  And cheerleading can be a reciprocal act, too!  Let’s face it, it’s incredibly fun and uplifting to stan* your friends when they need it.

Remind yourself why you’re doing this. Whenever I hit a slog, when the words aren’t coming and I need a little more motivation, I love reading books where writers talk about their experience living the writing life.  It helps to put me back into a good mental place, reminding me why I want to keep doing this, despite the obstacles.

Those are just a few strategies I know off the top of my head.  Whichever one you try, the important thing is to keep trying, to find the strategy that lights that fire in you.  The Rejection Beast will come, whether we want it to or not.  And we can yell at it, or blend it in with the décor, or call up our friends to vent about it.  But eventually we need to keep doing what we love doing, and refuse to let this Beast stop us.


*Yes, I know ‘stan’ is a trendy new word that All the Kids Are Using These Days, but it fits so neatly into a hole in my vocabulary that I find myself using it a lot!  It’s a great mash-up that encompasses cheering, supporting, and promoting something/someone you love in one easy one-syllable verb.  What’s not to like?

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