On Rejection As A Writer
I recently got turned down for a contributing writer position on a popular book website. To be honest, I was surprised. I’ve worked with them before, and even though they received hundreds of applications, I thought I had a pretty good chance.
So when I got the “You Suck” email (which, in actuality, was kindly worded), I had a moment of “You’re Kidding Me? How could you turn me down?” It was an ego check, if I’m honest with you.
But, really, life as a writer is just a series of mountaintop moments and rejections and ego checks. You have a run of bad luck, maybe several rejection letters from magazines, you question what you’re doing with your life, then a publisher/magazine/website finally bites! And they pay you for your work. Imagine that! How exciting!
Then you start to have a little success. One article turns into another article. Your self-published book that had moderate success lands you a deal with a publisher. And, maybe, just maybe, that success starts to go to your head a little.
That’s when you’ve set yourself up. The pedestal is shaky, my friend.
You begin to think that everything you touch is gold. I can write a 1,500 word feature article in my sleep, you think. This is SO easy, you think.
Don’t be stupid. Because when the next rejection comes in–and it will, oh it will–your ego will feel the size of the tip of your editor’s ballpoint pen.
As a writer, rejection is part of the job. Any published piece will go through editing–which, at its core, is just someone telling you that “you messed up HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE, too. And, oh, by the way, this part right HERE really sucks. Rewrite it.”
That’s just the nature of this particular beast we call writing and getting published. If you want to be a good writer, you’ve got to develop a thick skin. Truthfully, I’m not there yet.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m much, much, much better at taking criticism than I was 10 years ago. But I’m still not there, and I don’t know if I ever will be. The rejection email helped me realize that.
In reality, a publisher/magazine might turn you down for 8 million different reasons–and many of them have nothing to do with your quality as a writer. More than that, this is about building off your victories, not lingering on your self-perceived defeats.
Maybe a teacher way back in the day said you had a way with words. Maybe your husband says you should really think about starting a blog. Maybe your friend thinks you have a story worthy of putting into article or book form.
Build off that. Don’t rest in the compliment and think everyone will love you, but build off that.
And those rejections? They’re nothing but a motivation from now on. Not in a petty “I’ll show you!” kind of way, but maybe in a petty “I’ll show you!” kind of way. Whatever works.
The tricky part about being a writer is knowing the difference between checking your ego at the door (or your editor will do it for you), and maintaining the confidence that allows you to grow as a writer. Follow me?
Though my ego got dinged a little, I’m cool with getting rejected by that website because I’m confident enough, finally, in myself as a writer to know that I’ll fight another day. I’ll continue to write this blog, write at my day job, write guest posts for other blogs and websites, and I’ll continue working on my book.
That’s why Kathryn Stockett’s story is just incredible. She got rejected 60 times before one publisher took a chance on a little book called The Help. How much resilience and self-confidence must Kathryn Stockett have to continue believing in herself and her work despite that many rejections?
You can’t really call yourself a writer until you’ve received a rejection letter. I’m not in a writer’s club. But if I created one, I’d make receiving a rejection letter a prerequisite for joining my club. You’d need one to get in the door.
So, yeah, if you’ve had your work rejected, welcome aboard. Wear the t-shirt, get the tattoo, and pat yourself on the back.
You’re a writer now!