I wrote 218 words today. That’s how I start all of my posts. It keeps me honest. Public accountability doesn’t work for everyone, but I find it a reliable convincer to get me out of bed and to my computer every morning.
Before I get into the meat of this post, a couple disclaimers:
1) I’m not an expert. To date, I have one publishing credit—a short story in a publication that went belly up before the ink dried on my $12.45 royalty check. I am a hack and therefore cannot be held responsible for anything you glean from my aimless ramblings.
2) I’m currently taking mass quantities of cold meds, so if you stumble upon a large, disjointed section that seems to go nowhere leaving you dangling over a metaphoric cliff, I humbly apologize.
Okay, with that said, welcome! I’m glad you’re here. If you were expecting Schizo, I’m sorry to disappoint, because I know how disappointment can ruin your day. When I was a kid, I once rode my bike five miles to the video store to rent Back to the Future 3 only to find no copies available. I was crushed!
If I could speak to that younger version of myself, I’d say, “Stop crying, you big baby, and get used to rejection! One day you’ll be a writer!”
Unfortunately time travel is still impossible, which is a shame. I could have saved myself a lot of worry and sadness.
When I first started writing, the path to publication seemed so simple. Write a story, mail it to a publisher, and use the time it takes for them to receive it, read it, and call begging for the publishing rights to select the complete cast for the Hollywood blockbuster adaptation.
Turns out that’s not actually how it works; at least not for most people. The reality is most writers will weather quite a few gut-wrenching, soul-crushing rejections before getting their first nod from the publishing industry. It just comes with the territory, which can be extremely disheartening for folks who don’t know how to deal with it.
“Well, Hack, how do you deal with rejection?”
Please forgive the simplicity of the following answer, but I don’t consider thanks but no thanks personal rejections and try my best to learn from each one.
Rejection will always suck (that’s a given) but it only hurts when we consider it an indicator of our personal worth. When we are able to separate who we are from what we’ve written, rejection becomes less a source of disappointment and more a catalyst for change.
In his writing memoir, On Writing, Stephen King talks about his publishing struggles early on in his career. Back then, publishers sent little blue rejection slips about the size of a notecard instead of form letters. After receiving his first, King pounded a nail through it into his bedpost where he placed all the many rejection slips that followed. Pretty soon, he had received so many that he had to replace the nail with a spike.
Sometimes the rejection slips would come with hand-written feedback scribbled into the margins. He drank these critiques up. For King at least, rejection wasn’t an excuse to give up but an opportunity to learn. I think things turned out pretty well for him.
Taking rejection with a smile ain’t easy, but in my opinion, it’s the only productive response. The alternative is decidedly unproductive and damaging and can end a potentially long and successful career before it even starts.
So next time you receive a harsh critique, a rejection letter, or the dreaded thanks but no thanks, do three things: 1) separate the present worth of your craft from your perceived worth as an individual, 2) give yourself a hug, because you’re no less awesome and 3) search the margins of the rejection to find lessons that might actually make you a better writer.
And, friends, with that bit of wisdom and a buck in change, you can buy yourself a coke!
Thank you, Hack. I look forward to reading your upcoming blogs and will rejoice along with you when the acceptance letter come.
Your Friend, Schizo
- Rejected Not Dejected (schizophrenicwriter.wordpress.com)
- How to Write (Better): Author Branding and Unmarketing in the Publishing World (blogher.com)
- “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully: in Ten Minutes” (gointothestory.com)