Staying positive in the face of rejection
I touched on the subject of rejection in my last post, but thought it might be useful to share some tips on how I cope with the inevitable knock-backs everyone faces in the world of writing. These days, rejection letters have a minimal impact on me and I'm quite proud of the fact that I can now move on from them super swiftly. My most recent rejection was from the UK Northern Writer's Awards; I applied to them for funding and support earlier this year and sent them an excerpt from my work-in-progress book. It took me exactly 44 seconds to get over not being accepted for an award, which is my new personal best! During that 44 seconds I experienced all manner of emotions ranging from outrage to overwhelming ennui, but after surviving over 10 years of regular 'get lost' letters, the emotional recovery process was pretty damn fast by anyone's standards.
Perhaps the most important nugget of advice I can give is to acknowledge that rejection hurts in any form, but it isn't a measure of the actual worth of your writing. This took me a long time to realise and accept, especially because my writing is so personal in many ways. It felt like my personality and my experiences were being rejected along with the manner in which I had expressed them on the page. But rejections aren't personal and it's better to see submitting work as a business arrangement, which is largely what it is.
Important questions to ask yourself are,
Have you edited and crafted your work so it is the best standard possible?
Have you accurately researched the publication you want to submit to and met all their acceptance criteria?
Do you have a new original 'angle' or unique story to tell? If not, you should get one.
Are you constantly developing your writing skills?
Do you take on board feedback or react badly to criticism?
One thing I also noticed is that the more I kept submitting work, the less it bothered me to get rejected. After a while, you become desensitised to it and it simply becomes normal. Plus, once I really analysed and developed my work and approach to publishing, I eventually began to get acceptances and positive feedback which start to cancel out the rejections.
The crux of coping with rejections is to NEVER GIVE UP. You can't let rejection letters determine your future as a writer and the longer you stew in your own juice over them, the longer it will take you to write something better and submit it somewhere else.
I also found it helpful to research how best-selling writers coped with rejection before they hit the big time and was shocked to find that many huge names in the literary world were rejected multiple times before getting a publishing deal...
Robert M.Pirsig's 'Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance' was rejected 121 times
Stephen King's 'Carrie' was rejected 30 times
Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind' was rejected 31 times
JK Rowling's 'Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone' was rejected 12 times and she was told "not to quit her day job"
So if you've ever had your writing rejected, you're in good company.
Imagine if they had given up completely or spent decades sulking in a corner!
As Dory the fish sang so wisely in 'Finding Nemo' - "Just keep swimming" You can do it, as long as you don't give up, you'll get there in the end!