Rejection takes it's toll on a writer's confidence. Author, instructor and blogger Terri Giuliano Long is here to share her best tips on how to cope after hearing those dreaded words..."No thanks, this isn't for me."
Let’s face it: rejection stings. A tactful “no, thank you” from an agent or editor makes us feel like a jilted lover, hurt and alone. The dreaded form letter rejection reduces us to nameless obscurity, and can destroy a sensitive writer’s teetering confidence.
If we’re to move forward again, we need to figure out how to heal our bruised ego. Here are seven constructive ways to rebuild confidence after a painful rejection.
Indulge. Like a virus, rejection damages the psyche. Take a 24-hour breather, and doctor yourself. Treat yourself to a bar of rich dark chocolate or a glass of white wine. If you prefer physical release, scream, cry, swear, punch a bag, go out for a run. Go ahead and write that cathartic letter. Give the agent or editor a piece of your mind; cite, in bold letters, the idiocy of rejecting your work – then hit delete or throw the letter away. Don’t ever hit send.
Take 24 hours. When the time is up, however you feel, go back to your desk.
Remember: decisions are often related to taste or circumstance. We tend to think of rejection as an objective assessment of the quality of our work. Sometimes that’s true - and sometimes decisions are purely subjective. Maybe the agent dislikes your genre or prefers a different writing style; perhaps the editor recently bought a piece similar to yours. Unless you’re one of the lucky few to receive an explanation, you’ll never know why your work was rejected. If you believe in the piece, let the rejection go and move on.
Separate yourself. The work was rejected, not you. You are an individual, separate from the work you do. Sure, rejection feels personal, but it’s not. Agents and editors dislike pieces for any number of reasons. Unless you’ve violated a rule or sent sloppy work, the rejection is not a reflection on you.
Remind yourself of previous successes. Do what athletes do: learn from your mistakes and move on; focus on what you’ve done well. Draw up a list of successes; keep it handy and pull it out whenever you need an adrenaline lift.
Maintain a supportive network. Writing is a lonely profession, and that loneliness wears on us. Supportive friends can buoy our spirits, pull us out of the depths. Share your everyday life with a friend, lover or spouse. Share writing woes with a trusted writer friend, who understands the nuances of the business and can offer advice, and be sure to return the favor graciously.
Circulate. A friend offered this advice, and it’s among the best I’ve received: as soon as a rejection arrives, reprint and send the piece out again. Never rely on a single work to make you or let one unsold piece break you. Work on multiple pieces; if you always have something in the mail, you’ll have hope.
Reframe. Rather than focus on hurt feelings and negativity, think of rejection as a call to action. Use it to motivate yourself to improve. Read the rejected piece closely or ask a trusted friend to assess it for you: what are its strengths and weaknesses? Figure out where you need to improve and then do it. Work on becoming the best you can be. Learn, practice - and reach for the stars.
TLC: All great tips, Terri! I especially love the idea of Circulate....don't rest on your laurels and conversely, don't allow a rejection to sideline you. The only way to sell your product is to continually put it on the shelf!
About the Contributor:
Terri Giuliano Long is the author of In Leah's Wake. She teaches writing at Boston College and hosts a blog that educates and inspires writers. Terri received her MFA at Emerson.