As a follow-up to my post about using bad writing to get to good writing, I was asked how I deal with rejection. It’s easy to be philosophical about it. I can talk about how many rejection letters authors got before their groundbreaking work got published. I can talk about how no leads us to the yes we really need, how setbacks give us opportunities to learn and grow, and how we shouldn’t take rejection personally.
But rejection is personal. We dedicate a lot of time, effort, and passion into our work. We polish and perfect our writing until we are proud to put our name on it and show it to others. It stings when our creation is rejected. Seeing it dismissed with a dispassionate “your submission does not meet our needs at this time” makes it sting even more.
We might also be in the position where we can’t accept no for an answer. If you don’t make the sale, you won’t be able to pay the rent. If you don’t publish your topical novel now, you may never get another chance. Rejection isn’t something we can be philosophical about.
How do we really deal with rejection?
Look for alternatives
If you can’t find a publisher, publish your work yourself. If you can’t cover the costs, do a Kickstarter or GoFundMe campaign. If you can’t land the job you want, take any job you can to pay the bills and gain more experience. If you believe in your work, you will find ways to get it out into the world. Tap into the creativity you used to produce your work to address your challenges.
Look for champions
Don’t expect to attract thousands of people when you start out. Instead, look for people who can believe in your work and have enough influence to get others excited about it. Look for champions in your field and build relationships with them. Ask for their advice and pay them back by helping them when you can. When they have the interest and time, send them a copy of your work. Ask them for their feedback and accept it wholeheartedly. If you can get them excited about your work, they will get others excited as well. They, in turn, will excite others. Your writing will start getting attention.
What if, despite your best efforts, you can’t build any interest in your project? Go on to the next one. Your current work might not be exactly what publishers or readers want, but your next one might be. If you can find success with a project, people may go back and check out your earlier work.
Don’t give up
My professors used Breece D’J Pancake as a cautionary tale when I started out in writing. He was a promising young writer who unalived himself at age 26. I was told that he took his life because he was scared of not being able to have a writing career. In truth, he struggled with a number of issues, and the exact reason he ended his own life remains unknown. He left behind several brilliant short stories and unfulfilled promise.
What I got from his tragedy is to avoid giving up too soon. Writing is a hard business to break into. But you don’t want to be the person who gives up after the 20th rejection when the 21st submission might have landed you a contract.
Rejection hurts, but not as much as the regret of having words left unexpressed. You have something to say, and there is someone out there who needs to hear it. Keep writing and keep looking for doors to open when others have closed.