I was urged to query agents before publishing my first book myself. I didn’t think it was possible, but when you talk to someone you respect and they think it’s possible, you follow suit. I researched agents of some of the books I thought were in the same vein. I read the submission guidelines to see how they varied from company to company. I wrote the proposal and fired a few off in hopes that I might hear something and one day be led to that shiny publishing deal so many of us as writers dream of.
For the most part, I didn’t hear back. In fact, it was so radio silent, that I moved on with my life and probably by then even started working on my own book, which was different than the one I was trying to pitch. Then one faithful day, I checked the mail and there it was. A letter from an agency. I opened it and I’m certain the first word was unfortunately and I knew exactly what it was. My first rejection letter in living color.
It first fascinated me that they would take the time to send a hard copy. At the time, I think I actually had to send a hard copy of my book proposal. There it was, a big fat no. I wasn’t even sure I should have been pitching a book at that time, but somehow it didn’t take away the sting. Somehow the silence of the other rods I casted didn’t seem quite as bad as the reality of that no. The finality of it all. Could I ever be a writer if someone took the time to snail mail me a no?
This one’s for all those who were rarely told no growing up, those who tried to fit into perfect molds with straight A’s and never had a hair out of place. This ish is for us … *in my Solange voice.”
Rejection is a part of this game. I think it is very important to sit with that and evaluate whether that is something you can accept. You will be rejected. Not only particularly in writing, but in life. Everything just does not go your way, so your writing career is no different. You will try to pitch, propose, and promote and somewhere along the way someone is going to tell you, “This just isn’t what we’re looking for right now,” “Your proposal just left a little to be desired,” or something of the sort. The good news for you and me is that after I read that first rejection letter, I was still standing. I survived and you will too.
This topic of dealing with rejection has come up multiple times in my FB writing group, The Writer’s Muse. You have to take risks in anything that you do. I put myself out there by completing that proposal and guess what? I probably didn’t send it to half as many people as I should have. I will also, probably revamp it now and RESEND it again. Success favors the courageous, I’ve heard many people say. You have to learn how to power through it.
Your career as a writer does not lie in the decision of one person. Do you know how many people there are in this world? Do you know how many agents there are in this world? So what you didn’t get into the literary magazine or picked for the residency or signed to the publishing company. There are plenty more. You can’t base your life on one no and sometimes you can’t even base it on 99 no’s because there is still that 100th try that may be a yes.
Is this what you want to do? Because I know I don’t see an alternative to writing. I love this. I want to continue to work at being the best at it and I don’t have any other option. That’s what keeps me motivated. I have to be. So here are a few things I want you to do when dealing with the disappointment of rejection.
Just like fear, rejection isn’t going anywhere. I think it’s more healthy to learn how to live with rejection than to pretend that it doesn’t affect you. It will. It hurts. It stings, but you have to learn how to push through it. Be courageous. Keep going.
Literally. When I am waiting on being selected for something, I have learned to talk to myself and say, “You are a great writer whether this opportunity happens for you or not. Not getting it doesn’t change anything. You will keep writing, the plan will continue.” Tell your mind what to think. You cannot allow your thoughts to go down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and pity because one or eight people told you no. Keep going.
Be honest about disappointment.
Not getting picked sucks man. But be honest about the fact that you wanted it and didn’t get it. It’s healthier that way. Sometimes we try to minimize things or we don’t go out for them at all because we think we’ll be rejected, which is just crazy talk. You have to try and it’s okay to say, “that sucked,” but don’t allow yourself to stay there. Keep going.
Treat it as an opportunity for growth.
What if your piece wasn’t that good? I know, sometimes we dance around that, but you have to be able to evaluate that. There will be times when you can look at a piece and say, “nope, this is great.” And there will be other times when you can look at something that got a no and say, “you know what? Maybe there was room for improvement.” Maybe your pitch could have been more personable. Maybe your proposal needed more examples. Grow from the no’s, you’ll be better for it in the long run. And most importantly, keep going.
I want you to prosper, but we have to be able to believe in ourselves enough to do so. Most often it is not a question of talent, but are you comfortable? Are you assured? Are you putting forth your best effort? Those are the things that begin to open up doors. Be open to opportunity. That means opening yourself up to those that are yours and being able to let those that aren’t yours pass. I am no longer certain that there is such a thing as a missed opportunity. Either the opportunity will find you at another time, or a better one than you could have even imagined will find you.
We’ve all dealt with rejection. Pick yourself up, pull yourself together, and live to write another day.
If you are looking for some additional help in your writing process, I am now accepting clients on a limited basis. Please take a look at my offerings. Never underestimate the importance of an accountability partner to help bring out the best in your work. When you are producing excellence, you definitely begin to understand rejection in a different way.