An undeniable reality of being a writer is dealing with rejection. Sometimes, it feels like a cruel joke that completing a piece can give you such a high while letting another read it can beat you to the ground. Sadly, rejection is a very integral part of the writing life (as is being a sensitive person - yet another cruel joke). But, if you want to keep writing and eventually succeed at it, it is important to not get bogged down by all of those rejection letters and emails. Here are just a few ways I "keep on keeping on" in the face of rejection, even as a very sensitive person, and maybe they can work for you, too.
1. Do at least one (non-writing) thing each week that you can be proud of.
That's right. Put the pen/keyboard down for a minute and think of something else you can accomplish. When the rejection letters pile up, it is so easy for that negative self-talk to weasel itself into your brain. I'm worthless. I'll never make it. I should just quit. You know you've had those thoughts. To get out of the funk that rejection causes, it's important to intentionally do things that can boost your self-esteem and make you feel good about YOU again. For me, some weeks, my big accomplishment may be something very small like catching up with the laundry or organizing a closet. The activity doesn't matter, what matters is that it is something that gives you a sense of pride and it is something that you can do without the approval of others. This week, I took the time to make a birthday cake for my husband, and I'm still smiling about how it turned out. If you can do something that makes you happy and makes someone else happy, well, that's just a bonus!
2. Have writer/artist friends or join a writing group.
I'm blessed to live with another artistic person so we can vent our frustrations to each other whenever we need to. My husband is a chef and chefs may even deal with more rejection than writers do. Think about it, everyone with taste buds thinks they are qualified to be a food critic. Anyway, it is very important to have these relationships in your life so that you can avoid feeling completely alone in your sorrow. If you don't already have other artist or writer friends, joining a writing group can be just as helpful. Not only does it get you in touch with like-minded people, it gets you out of the house, which brings me to my next strategy....
3. Step away from the computer!
When you start to feel yourself getting bogged down by rejection, use that feeling as an opportunity to take a much-needed break. Go outside, talk to people, breathe in the fresh air, do something that clears your mind. Sometimes the best ideas for your next article/poem/short story/novel will come to you when you're not thinking about writing at all.
4. Learn from constructive criticism.
Unfortunately, not everyone who sends us a rejection letter is going to take the time to give us feedback. Every once in a while, however, you may get lucky enough to hear the reason why your work wasn't chosen. When someone offers you constructive criticism, take it, think about it, and learn from it. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about how grateful I was when someone corrected my use of the word "leftover". It wasn't fun to hear about my own mistake, but you better believe I'll never misuse that word again!
5. Look to the greats.
While many of our favorite authors and artists may seem perfect to us, the truth is they were often recipients of rejection letters, too. The famous rejection stories of writers and artists like J.K. Rowling and Walt Disney are told so often that they have almost become a cliche. Even so, they teach us the lesson that all writers/artists must deal with rejection no matter how great they end up becoming. Listening to The Beatles Anthology discs is one of my favorite ways to lift my spirits after a rejection. On these discs, you hear about how The Beatles were turned down by Decca Records. You also hear recordings of "One After 909" and "Eight Days a Week" with false starts which is a refreshing glimpse of the incredibly hard work that goes into creating art as well as the reality that we rarely get things right the first time.
Rachel Boury Baxter
Writer: web content by day, fiction by night.