Rejection is something all writers hate and fear. When we put our hearts and souls onto the page, we want people to like what we’ve written, and better yet, accept it. Writing is an intimate form of self-expression, and when we are criticized or rejected for something we wrote, it’s painful. Many other writers might say, “it’s not about you as a person, it’s about something you’ve done, or something you do.” While that may be sound advice for some, it never gave me much comfort. Writing is a part of who I am, so yes, when someone rejects or criticizes something I have written, for me, it’s personal. Believe me, I’ve had my share of rejection, and one thing I know to be true; it will happen again, and again.
Writing is a tough business. So how do we overcome this fear that can paralyze us and often debilitate us from expressing ourselves with our words?
#1 Ask yourself the question: Is writing something I must do in order to be happy and fulfilled?
Be honest with yourself. Is writing your passion? If it is, you will find a way to deal with your fear of rejection. If writing is something you are called to, and I think you know if it is, the desire to express yourself in this way will rise above the fear. That doesn’t mean the fear of rejection is diminished, it just means that you are willing to endure the pain of rejection, and find a way to work around it. You will keep getting up after being knocked down, and prepare yourself for the next punch until you are victorious—whatever that means to you.
#2 Understand that rejection can be helpful.
If you’ve submitted to agents and editors, and you find their comments are similar, you might take note of what they say. At first, you might be hurt, and maybe even angry, but try to look at it the criticism as constructive. Take the emotion out of it and hear what they have said.
One of the best things you can do is to educate yourself. Take online courses, go to writer’s conferences and workshops, join a critique group. Get outside feedback from people other than your mother, best friend, or spouse.
I find that one of the easiest and least painful ways to get feedback is to enter contests. You most likely won’t know the judges, so you can take their criticisms and compliments in a more objective way. Contests provide a nice distance from the criticism. You will also get feedback from three or more judges. This way, you can determine if they are all see the same thing. If they do, you need to do more work. If not, you can decide whose input is more valuable, and what you are going to do with it. You will have a sense of who is on the mark, and who just didn’t get what you wrote.
#3 Know that it may not mean your work is terrible.
Agents and editors are in the business to SELL. If they don’t feel they can sell your work, they won’t accept it. Just like you, they are trying to make money at what they do. For most, it is their livelihood, and if the work doesn’t speak to them, they probably won’t take a chance on it. Do your homework and find out just want kind of work they are looking for. The Manuscript Wish List is a great resource for this. http://www.manuscriptwishlist.com
Still, it is important to note that even if an editor or agent is “in love” with what you have written, they might be answering to powers that be, and cannot take on the project even though they want to.
#4 Find something positive in the rejection.
I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but it is something we all should do more often. You might get a rejection stating that your characters are compelling, your writing is strong, and you have a gift for humor, but the work wasn’t fast paced enough. What do you focus on? Like most of us, the one negative criticism or comment. If you get a rejection like the one I’ve just laid out, you are on the right track. Go you! Take stock of the negative comment, but rejoice in the positive ones. They have value as well.
#5 DON’T GIVE UP.
The writers who truly fail are the writers who don’t get their work out there. Today there are so many options for writers to publish. If you work at your craft, look at your rejections and criticisms as objectively as possible, and keep finding the courage to put yourself out there, you will find success. If you have a story to tell, or a message to impart through writing, share it. Learn from the positive and the negative comments. Rejection will happen. In your writing and in your life. It is never pleasant, but it can help mold who we are and who we will become.
To read last weeks article, “Fear of Writing Emotion” click here.