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…