How To Keep Rejection From Eating Your Soul

If there’s one thing that all writers can agree upon, it’s that getting rejected sucks.

As someone who tends to spend years tolling away on long-form works like novels and memoirs, I haven’t played the literary magazine submission game too often. Now and then, I feel compelled to send out a few pieces, and most don’t get accepted. I didn’t mind as much in the past because I stuck to poems and short stories. However, this time I did a submission blast specifically for essays and excerpts from my memoir.

Sending out such personal and sensitive work for the first time was difficult. While I don’t have much of a problem with others reading about my life (even the embarrassing, weird, and awkward parts of it), having that same work rejected from the get-go was a much more frightening prospect.

gummi-bearAnd I did get rejections. So far, I’m 0 for 5 with 2 submissions pending. When the negative responses started to trickle in, I did lose heart. Those moments you receive rejections are the ones you most question being a writer…well, not including the ones when you get so frustrated while trying to write something that you put your face in your hands, groan repeatedly, give up for the day and eat a bunch of gummy bears while watching Gilmore Girls reruns.

Actually, I might be the only one who does this. But I’m sure you have a similarly strange frustration coping process. (Tell me in the comments!)

I’m not going to pretend that this process didn’t shake my confidence. It did. However, as I’ve been posting about this endeavor on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve received many comments from people who have also struggled with rejections. Everyone has assured me that not only is it perfectly normal, but that in many ways rejection makes you stronger as a person and a writer.

This response from talented memoirist and craft book author Sue William Silverman was my favorite: “I received a gazillion rejections before I received my first acceptance…and I still receive rejections. It’s just part of this being an artist thing we signed up for. Just remember how subjective it is. The important thing is to never, ever give up!”

That’s really the key thing to remember when submitting work anywhere, be it a literary magazine, agent, or publisher – it’s subjective. A lot of the time, a publication is overwhelmed with submissions. Sometimes, your writing doesn’t match the reader’s personal preference. Rejections don’t mean you’re a bad writer. They just mean you haven’t found the right home for your work yet. The right home for your work might even be indie or self-publishing. You have the power to accept your own work and allow readers to decide for themselves whether they like it.

My take-away from this submission/rejection process is to:

1. Keep working on your craft. The writing itself is ultimately what matters most.

2. Keep submitting. Eventually, you will find a home and audience for your work if it’s well-written and meaningful.

3. Share your journey with others. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed by rejections. Getting those words of encouragement from my friends, fellow writers, and well-published authors is what saved me from spiraling into a pit of self-pity and defeat. Take advantage of this thing we call social media and reach out. It’s a much more effective coping strategy than eating gummy bears (and way less fattening).

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12 replies to “How To Keep Rejection From Eating Your Soul”

  1. Sonya Craig says:

    My favorite rejection letter stated, “I am less than sanguine about this project.”
    I spent the next week poking fun at the phrase: e.g. “I’m less than sanguine about this grilled cheese sandwich.” (and other silly stuff)
    Now I can’t hear or read the word sanguine without cracking up. Poor word.

    1. Alana says:Author

      It’s always fun to turn rejections into something silly. There’s no need to take them too seriously. That’s another great way to deal with it. And that rejection does sound pretty ridiculous 🙂

  2. Someone once told meto replace the “no” in rejection with “not yet”. That helps some. But I’m with you on Gilmore Girls. I still watch it every day! 🙂

    1. Alana says:Author

      Yay! I’m not the only one who still watches Gilmore Girls! That makes me happy.

  3. Life is too short to spend it waiting for others’ approval. And I adore Gilmore Girls!

    1. Alana says:Author

      Yay, another GG fan!

  4. Andrew says:

    Keep it up. You are a fantastically talented writer. One thing that I’ve done is throw away and forget the rejections (just got one this last week), and remember only the publications. I have those on my resume/CV, on my website, and I tell everyone where I was published. I think it is in the moment that we received the news that we are most down, but you will find a home for you work. I know it.

    1. Alana says:Author

      Aww. Thank you so much, Andrew! I agree with everything you said. Finding the right home for your work is what matters, and that can take time. Ultimately, it’s all worth it.

  5. Hi Alana! Rejections. What a subject. Who likes to be rejected? It’s like festering an open wound. We can only hope that as we grow as a person or a writer our wounds grow over with a nice thick scab that will protect us and give us more confidence for future rejections. Because rejection is a part of life. Not everyone’s tastes are the same. And how boring would that be it they were? It’s what makes the world go round. But in the meantime, there’s always Gummy Bears and the Gilmore Girls, right? 🙂

    1. Alana says:Author

      Hi Karen! Always lovely to receive a comment from you. I agree so much with everything you said. Part of rejection is getting used to it and not taking it seriously because it’s just the path we’re on. Thanks 🙂

  6. Casey Poma says:

    Hey Alana!

    I accept rejections because I think that, no matter how good you are, you’ll always get them. Every artist I’ve ever admired has been told no a million times, so I just see it as a way of getting there. Let’s say success is an island in the middle of a lake. My rejection letters are simply lilly-pads on the way there. Or those little stones we can walk across. Or each rejection letter is a step along the perilous mountaintop. Of course, it’d be easy to go off the side and give up, or grind, grind, grind, get your lilly-pads, and get to the other side.

    We all have to go through it, and the good thing is, the more we get rejected, the harder and stronger we become. The drive gets tougher, and we get better. Rejection just makes you better, really. And then, hopefully, someday, when you’re READY, (and I believe when I am rejected, I am not ready yet), you’ll get a yes. And I will too, I hope. When I am ready and good enough.

    Oh, and GG was all right. I always felt that the mom was SO self-centered, lol. I liked her parents and Rory though. The grandfather was the guy from those History Channel documentaries!

    I have a post about rejection, too. You want to see it? 😀

    1. Alana says:Author

      Hey Casey!

      Sure, what’s the link to your post on rejection?

      The lily pad analogy is a great one. Rejections can mean you aren’t ready, but I think they can also mean you haven’t found the right place for your work. It’s all a process, for sure, and just part of being a writer/artist/musician/creative person.

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