On Handling Rejection

Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Blog | 6 comments

On Handling Rejection

The world of writing comes with a constellation of certainties. Creating. Editing. Research. Solitude. More editing. And if you’re submitting your work for publication, add the Big R to the list: Rejection.

As Isaac Asimov wrote, “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them.” Yep, all the greats have suffered rejection.

I’d love to give the subject a Pollyanna-polish, but really, there’s no way around it. Rejection sucks. Since it’s an inevitable pothole in the writing journey, the question is not how to avoid rejection, but how to handle it.

Here’s one slightly comforting perspective. Writing may be a lonely endeavor, but when you’re swimming in the pool of rejection, you’re never alone. A lot of bodies inhabit that salty, tear-filled water and the good thing is they are alive. So while you’re dog-paddling around, do some commiserating. Then swim to the side, haul yourself out, shake like a dog, and get back at it.

About two years ago, I attended a writer’s workshop where a very successful author related the sad tale of one of his manuscripts. He had worked on the novel for over a year, finally had it polished to his satisfaction, and sent it off to his agent, who promptly rejected it. He then sent it to the editor who published his previous book and she, too, rejected it. But get this. The author’s previous novel had been optioned, found its way into a screenplay, and then into an Academy-Award-winning movie. Needless to say, after this particular manuscript was soundly rejected, he and a bottle of scotch spent some serious time on the couch.

I just saw this author at a writer’s conference, where he presented. He’s still writing. He’s still getting published. He’s still at it.

So the thing about rejection is somehow you have to handle it, get it out of your system and get back at it. Punch pillows. Line up pints of Ben & Jerry’s and plow through them. Run like you’re Forrest Gump. Whatever works for you, just do it.

Because in the end, we writers have to scrape ourselves off the pavement, stash that chocolate-caramel smeared spoon in the dishwasher, and strap ourselves to the chair. If we don’t, we’ll get all gummed up with words and stories, and we won’t be able to finish any manuscript.

And that, my friends, is far worse than rejection.

Write on!





  1. Great article. There are far too many talented authors who gave up after receiving dozens of rejections. They didn’t have enough faith in their writing, which to me is the most essential aspect of being a writer..If you believe in yourself and your ability to write a good story, you will eventually find a home for your work.

  2. Outstanding advice! Thank you, Lynn.

  3. Love this, great message to everybody…don’t give up.

  4. Leeza

    • Thanks for your great comment, Leeza. You are so right! When I was in financial sales, we had that exact philosophy (now that you remind me). A “no” brought you one step closer to a “yes.” In fact, statistics supported that statement: for every 10 people contacted, you would be able to make a pitch to 3 and out of those 3, you would have one buyer. Unfortunately, the world of writing and publishing doesn’t lend itself to such stats because it’s too subjective. In this case saying what you said – that rejection will propel us to a next step – is so true.

  5. Great encouragement, and I’ve sure enjoyed my share of B&J’s in my time. However, I’ve put down my spoon and adopted an radical viewpoint about the ‘R’ word… What if rejection doesn’t have to suck? What if we don’t all have to suffer together? What if we found a way to view the many rejections we receive, in writing and in life, in a way that inspires us rather than makes us grind our teeth through it? What if we could shift our mind from ‘I want this particular scenario’ to really get that ‘no’ can mean ‘next, please’? What if we chose, instead of the despair, a belief that fuels us forward (and ice cream jags are equally based on a belief i.e. it’ll never happen, it’s not good enough, they don’t want it, etc.)? For example, we could conclude for ourselves ‘that wasn’t the right publisher for me’. Or, the time’s not yet right. Or, a much better deal is coming to me in my next round of submissions. Radical? Yes. A huge, almost inconceivable stretch after the sweat and stress of writing and submitting? You bet! Unrealistic? No. I’m proof. Think about it. Since life is comprised of rejections, large and small, why not design a way to roll with them that will propel us forward to an excited next step on our path? In the end, we are the architects of our experience. Since our work as authors is about putting our heart out there in material that some will like and some will not (I know people who’ve won’t even read Harry Potter!), why not make it a fun ride the whole way and blaze forward … even if rejected? Radical indeed. More fun? I think so, plus it’s less fattening ;>) !

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