Wednesday, March 12, 2014

When Rejection Hits Hard

First, I would like to say how happy I am to have been invited to join this great group of writers in contributing to The Prosers blog. In a field where rejection is so common, to receive an invitation is refreshing, and flattering.

Speaking of rejection, I got one earlier today. Not a big deal – I knew the story wasn't a brilliant fit, but I had stuff at all the other pro markets and I needed someplace to send it. Besides, I believe it's the editor's job to reject the story, not mine. You never know what might catch an editor's fancy.

After writing for a while, you tend to get a thick skin regarding rejections. You realize that it's not personal and it's not always because there's fault with the story. And yet, sometimes there is one rejection that stings. And that rejection kicks you in the slats and it hurts no matter how much logic tells you it shouldn't. Worse yet, this is the rejection that takes you down the evil road where you start doubting your abilities and wonder if you'll ever sell anything ever again. Once you're on that road, it's easy to avoid writing because you're afraid it'll all just be crap anyway.

So what do you do?

Keep writing is the pat answer, but it's not always the right one. You might need a day or two off for an emotional reset. That's okay as long as you don't do it with every rejection, or stay away too long. The writing muscles in your brain get rusty fast without regular use.

But what if you're having trouble getting back to it? Then I say work on your writing without actually writing. Outline that story idea that's been simmering, do some research, write a practice scene or free write if that's to your taste. It all counts – don't let anyone tell you it doesn't. At some point, the words will catch and your characters will speak to you again and the next thing you know, you'll be writing up a storm. You'll have forgotten your doubts because you know the next thing you write is going to knock 'em dead. And if it doesn't, tough. Because you're going to write something great after that. You're going to keep improving and writing and submitting until the editors sit up and take notice. The next rejection that stings? You're going to work through that too because you know it's just part of the process. There is only one thing you can't do.

You can't quit.

Being a writer is a long slog filled with rejection, but when someone laughs or cries at your words, or comes into work late because they had to find out what happened to a character you created out of thin air, you'll know it's all worth it. Keep writing, keep learning and you will get there.

Rejection is not the end; it is the opportunity to show your work to another editor. And another, and another…


  1. Beautiful first post, Trina. Glad to have you with us.

    Rejection sucks so hard. Especially the here is my soul on a page, judge it to see if I've wasted my work and my time and my dreams and you suck and I suck and this whole world sucks aspect of it.

    I worked as a slush editor for a while, and what it taught me, is that so many stories in a slush pile are fine. Some are good. Some are great. But only a few can get chosen, and it's based on the consensuses of a group. I can't tell you how many times my favorite stories would eventually get a no, because not enough people on staff liked it.

    It's just the nature of the business. When I get frustrated, my personal coping mechanism is to free write. I can't tell you how many files I've started which have the words "I hate this. Why can't I write? Why are my kids awake, and why am I up this early trying to write anyway if it's never going to happen." But once those words are no longer blocking the way I usually write something I end up liking. Sometimes loving.

    That's its own reward.

    Welcome aboard!

  2. Great first post Trina and so true.

    I think it is easy for aspiring writers to forget that rejection never ends in this business. They tend to think once they get that one professionally published story that they've made it. But really rejection keeps coming at all stages of a writing career. We all need to figure out how to cope with it because it's never going away.

    I like your suggestion of taking a small break and relaxing that writing muscle. So often all we hear is write, write, write. I think it is important to let yourself time to grieve a little every once and a while because it is tough.

    We are so happy you joined us. Welcome!

  3. Welcome to the Prosers, Trina! I'm so glad to have you with us. This is a great post. Thanks!


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