Another Sunday post: I thought I’d pull out an article I wrote a bit ago, about how to survive rejection slips.
I must confess that I’ve had a fair bit of experience with this topic as I’ve been rejected multiple times by multiple editors/avenues. But did I give up? NO! (Well, okay, almost, but not quite…). I thought about giving up but never quite got to that point, even though it often seemed like a good idea at the time.
So here’s my advice:
With your heart pounding like a hammer in a construction worker’s hand, you rip open a brown, self-addressed, stamped envelope and pull out…another rejection slip.
Now, before you toss your computer into the garbage can in despair and fill out forms for ‘clown school’, why don’t you take a deep breath, grab a cup of coffee and read these seven tips for dealing with those dratted, intimidating pieces of paper.
- When a rejection slip comes (and it will come), don’t assume that the editor will never accept any of your work; editors read many manuscripts in their line of work and probably remember only the truly great or the really rotten. Don’t be afraid to approach the editor again with a fresh idea (and writers always have tons of fresh ideas!).
- Don’t view the rejection as a personal affront; rejection of your words in no way reflects your worth as a human being. Rejection slips are simply messages to inform you that for one reason or another the work you submitted to an editor is not suitable at that particular time for that particular editor.
- Do use rejection slips as tools to hone your writing skills. When a submission is returned to me I do take several minutes to wallow in self-pity, but then I re-read my article/essay/short story/poem as I think the editor did and I sometimes find flaws that escaped me before. If this happens I then revise my submission until I again feel good about what I’ve said and how I’ve said it. Then I submit the piece again to another editor.
- Do recognize that sometimes rejections are invitations to submit again: a previously-published essay of mine was rejected by a small magazine because of ‘readership overlap’, so I tried again with an unpublished piece. That submission, about squirrels, was returned with a note that said it would have been accepted if the editor hadn’t just bought a squirrel-essay from another writer (what on earth are the odds of that happening?). I gave myself a good kick-in-the-pants for not sending my essay out earlier, then sent the editor another essay. I haven’t heard back yet and because the editor was prompt with his rejections I think this is a case of ‘no news is good news’.
- Don’t read rejection slips again and again like old love letters. Dwelling on editors’ indifferent or unkind words will only serve to stifle your creative flow. I read a rejection carefully to learn from it then stuff it into a large envelope I keep in my filing cabinet. I don’t show rejection slips to my family and friends, I don’t use them to paper my office walls and I don’t plan to will them to my heirs.
- Don’t use rejection as an excuse to stop writing. Even veteran writers receive rejections, but they keep writing and submitting, writing and submitting. As long as you have faith in your words that’s the course you should follow, too.
- Do keep things in perspective by maintaining a sense of humor. When rejection slips pile up like unpaid bills I take a few minutes to mentally thank all the editors in editor-land with these words, “Thank you, dear editors, for your patience. Thank you for not lowering your standards to accommodate a fledgling writer and thank you for possessing the courage to knock me on my backside a few times for my effort. I’ll remember you when I’m famous and you clamor for just a word or two from my pen.”
Rejection slips are a fact of life for writers, as inevitable as death and taxes. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you’ll dig your computer out of the garbage can and start again.
Best of luck!