Rejection. How do you handle it? How does anyone handle it? When someone hands back to you something you spent months writing and tells you it's not good enough, what do you do to keep from breaking?It started with a question and turned into a discussion; how can a writer not take it personally when something they've spent the better part of a year working on is met with frustrating rejection? After relying on friends and family to edit and critique, you take a deep breath and send it out, only to get either an email or snail mail with the words, “Sorry. Not for us.” When it happens over and over, it beats you down and makes you question everything.
It's not personal. Those rejection letters aren't an attack on a writer's personal worth; they're simply notice that the work submitted was not something the publisher could use at that time. It wasn't the right fit. Maybe the timing was off. True, the letter might also mean that the manuscript was riddled with grammatical and spelling errors, that it made little sense, and that it was poorly written, but it's not a personal indictment. It just is what it is.
Have you ever watched a movie that fell just a bit short, and left the theater thinking that it could have been so much better—great, even—if only one or two things had been changed? That it might have had a chance at a best picture award if the lead had been played by someone other than That Big Name Actor?
That Big Name Actor is really good, but if you close your eyes and picture That Other Guy in the role, it makes more sense. It fits better. The delivery of lines, the innate facial ticks, all the little nuances that That Other Guy could have brought to the table would have made all the difference.
The truth of that doesn't change the fact that That Big Name Actor is incredibly talented and you'd probably pay to see him read out of the Yellow Pages; he just wasn't the perfect fit for that particular role. It's no different with writers and publishers; your story might be wonderful. It might be worthy of automatic inclusion on this year's The Best Of list in the literary circles. It just wasn't right for that particular magazine/book publisher/blog.
I got so many rejections a few years back that I just stopped writing. It was horrible; all those things I needed to write about were stuck living inside my head, and I guess I thought the only way to quiet the noise was to self-medicate. And that turned ugly.Writers have long history of drug and alcohol abuse; hell, Stephen King admits he doesn't remember writing Cujo because of all the coke he was doing. I've read articles by writers who admit they find the use of marijuana helps them write past their inhibitions; I've read work by those same people that were written while not under the influence of anything, and it often kinda sucks.
I'm willing to bet, though, that of you gave those same people a drink and told them it had whatever their demon of choice was in it and then let them set about writing, they'd write as if they were under the influence.
You won't be a better writer under the influence; you just allow yourself to be less inhibited. And you won't quiet the noise in your head, either. If you really want to quiet it, then sit down and write. Let the noise out and pour in onto virtual paper. Give yourself permission to be who you are, even in the face of more rejection letters than you ever thought possible.
Yeah, the rejections sting. They sting because it matters to you. But it's not personal, and getting enough of them to insulate your house isn't reason enough to stop writing.
Write to hone your craft, and write to keep your sanity.
It's not just about writers, either. Change that to just about anything. Photography, dance, acting.
Become one with your camera, show your pictures online.
Choreograph your own dance; record it and show it on You Tube.
Sink your teeth into community theater, take the role offered even if it's not the one you want.
You're still shooting pictures, still sharing your grace with the world, still shedding your own skin and taking on someone else's.
But how does one handle the rejection? You just do. You suck it up and move on and try to remember that it's part of a business and not an indictment against your talent or yourself. In college one of my English professors said that until you get a rejection, you're not a “real” writer—and within a year or two we'd all be consummate professionals, with enough of them to be the root cause of the death of an acre or two of forest.
He was a writer who sold his work consistently...and who shared his many weekly rejection letters with the class.
I doubt he enjoyed getting them, but he'd learned to shrug them off.
The answers don't really change, though.
Just keep at it.
It really is that simple.