Writing and Rejection

I was chuffed to bits to reach a milestone recently by having my first short story published. It was the wee boost I needed after being on the receiving end of the dreaded ‘R’ word.

“I’m afraid your novel is not right for our list”

“unfortunately, the piece is not for us”

“we will not be publishing your short story”

“thanks, but no thanks”

However it is worded, a rejection still hurts. It feels like someone telling me that my sons are ugly and they aren’t worth loving. Do I see any flaws in my boys? Of course not, they’re my flesh and blood and I wouldn’t change a thing about them (well maybe their selective deafness, eating habits, untidiness….) And my writing is my baby too and that’s why it gets messy with tears and snotters when another knock back drops into my inbox.

We’ve all heard the stories of famous writers being rejected and I’m sick to the back teeth of being told, “Don’t worry, J.K. Rowling suffered 12 rejections from publishers before she found the lucky 13th company to publish Harry Potter into literary history.”  Yeah, whatever. Only 12, I want to scream? That’s nothing, she had it easy!

So the lesson is that I need to get used to rejection. But does it get any easier I wonder? I doubt it; I think it’s more about accepting that rejection seems to be part of being a writer and living with it.

The trick I suppose is to learn how to cope with rejection. Here’s my 3 step strategy:

1) I try not to take it personally, although I’m glad that I don’t actually know any of the editors/judges so I don’t have to worry about awkward social contact in the future and bumping into them whilst drowning my sorrows with my old buddy, Pierre Smirnoff. There’s no risk of me telling them exactly what I think of their crappy literary journal. And who wants to be published in it anyway?

2)I also try to get straight back on the saddle and fire something else out to another magazine or competition.

3)But most importantly, I make it my goal to keep writing, with the hope that the more I write, the better writer I’ll become. I need to stay upbeat with PMA and all that guff (although PMA deserts me more often than my hubby would like).

My gran had a wooden plaque in her hall with the inscription, “Don’t take life too seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway”, painted on it along with the manic face of a circus clown. I can still picture the plaque and the message must have stuck in my brain because although it’s rotten receiving a rejection, I remember that rejection is not fatal, nobody died. And I laugh it off (courtesy of large vodka or two).

4 thoughts on “Writing and Rejection

  1. Over time I’ve come to look at my rejections as evidence that I’m actually writing, completing work, sending it out, starting something else. Somehow, you do get tougher, thicken your writing skin. Each rejection is proof that you are being productive. Somehow, you have to keep going. Steady with the vodka! You need a clear head to write.

  2. Hi Helen thanks for this post. I really appreciate it when fellow writers are honest about how hard this whole thing is. If you haven’t read Stephen May’s recent blogpost on the subject, check it out. I just looked at your About Me page and it seems to me that you’re well on the road and have already achieved quite a bit. It’s normal to want the next elusive thing all the time, isn’t it? I’ve no idea who said this, but I once read it somewhere and it’s never far from my mind: ‘A published writer is an unpublished writer who didn’t give up’. Better luck next time!

  3. Rejection always hurts and as writers tend to be sensitive wee flowers it seems like a particularly cruel thing for us to have to go through. You do learn though that a few rejections usually precede some good news, and submissions are a bit like mud thrown at a wall. Some of them do stick.

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