Last month, I received a rejection for a writing contest I’d entered. This, of course, is nothing new in an author’s life. But this particular rejection hit me harder than usual. Sure, I had other difficult things going on, and the rejection just added to the misery. But it was more than that.
What is it about rejection that hurts so much?
It’s not losing a contest or publication. We know those are tough to get. I knew, down deep, that rejection would be my constant companion, so it wasn’t as if I believed it would never happen. And I’m smart enough to realize that, if I keep at it, I’ll eventually win/get published.
Every time I submit something, despite the odds, I still have a spark of hope that this time will be different. This submission will be the one that finally works out. Most authors I know operate with that same hope. Why else would we keep trying? But, for me, this time the rejection extinguished that spark.
I didn’t question the quality of my submission, I questioned my quality as a writer.
Reacting as I did, rejection can smother any hope you have in yourself. For many like me, writing is a personal thing. We pour our hearts out onto our pages, and creating stirs hope within us that someone, somewhere out there, might just understand where we are coming from. Someone might just see the twisted, weird, deep, or unlikeable parts of ourselves in the story, and say, “I thought I was the only one.” We want that connection. Isn’t that what everyone wants? To know and be known?
But, the rejection comes and it is a giant slap in the face. We forget that they are reviewing our words and instead feel the dismissal of our voice, of that connection we threw out into the cosmic universe in hopes of someone commiserating. And, after one too many times experiencing that dismissal, we lose hope that we’ll ever be known. In turn, we question our writing. Maybe it won’t eventually pan out.
Our industry tells us rejection isn’t personal, and we scold ourselves because we are somehow less. Because, for us, it is completely personal.
Separating our work from ourselves is vital to a writer’s longevity. A rejection is not about you. It is about your work; the readiness of it, how well it works within a whole (journals), or if it fits stylistically with that editor/publication. Somehow, we as writers have to grasp this fact.
I’d like to say there’s a magic formula for realizing EVERY time the separation that exists between rejection of our work and rejection of ourselves. But if that were the case, I wouldn’t have wallowed away most of last month, eating cookies and contemplating the superior writing of a friend’s three-year-old.
So how do we move past what we perceive as personal rejection?
Here’s a few things that have helped me:
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you. Not just in you as a writer, but you as a person. When you doubt yourself, their encouragement can snap you out of your gloom.
- Keep a list of things you love about yourself. Give yourself a way to see your true self outside of writing.
- Keep a list of things you do well when writing. Remind yourself of your talent.
- Read something terrible. Sometimes seeing a book in print that has no business being in print is encouraging. If they could find their niche, so can you.
- Read something that moves/inspires you. Feed your longing for beautiful language. It will make you want to create something equally beautiful.
- Now, go write. The beauty of creating a story is that it fans the flame within you, and, before you know it, you believe in yourself – and your writing – again.
What helps you get over rejection? Share your tips in the comments below.