Saturday, April 18, 2009

Overcoming Rejection

Today, over on The Blood-Red Pencil, I’m blogging about believing in yourself. I’m talking to writers, but it applies to everyone. You have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing. If you experience a set-back, you can take a moment to re-group, then you have to get up and move forward. Don’t beat yourself up. You can’t get out of a hole if you dig a deeper pit.

Writers have a tough time. When an agent, an editor, a critique partner, a reader, or whoever doesn’t like our work or rejects our query, it’s hard not to take it personally. They’re rejecting our very words and thoughts. It feels as though they’re rejecting us.

Have you felt the sting of rejection? What have you done to get over it?

Tell us here, then drop by The Blood-Red Pencil and share your technique(s) to climb out of the pit and start again.
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  1. Sometimes it ticks me off when I get negative comments in a critique. But I just walk away for a while until I get over myself--because it's really about me and my imperfect vision being called out. Of course, sometimes I decide I was right and the commenter wrong; but there is generally a kernel of truth in there and if I want to write well I have to think about it and figure out if the criticism has merit.

    Ego can be a dangerous thing, so I try to cultivate humor. Being a Cranky McCrankypants, it is not always that easy for me. But shooting the messenger (who's doing me a favor) is wrongheaded so I just bite my tongue.

    The hardest thing is to not get all depressed when I don't like my work. I'm sure everybody has a day like that, where it all just looks like so much trash and you want to hit the delete key in the worst way?

  2. After reading many stories about stacks of rejection letters received before some of my favorite novels found puplication, I thought I was prepared. I even created a file for rejection letters before sending off my first query. I was determined to read and learn from the rejections.

    Still, that first one hurt, because secretly I'd hoped for instant acceptance. Adding insult to injury, the rejection was a form postcard - not even a form letter! So much for reading and learning. In a fit of disgust, I tossed that postcard. Now I don't have my very first rejection on file.

    That started a trend. When I receive form letters, post cards, or illegible scribles across my query letter, I note the extreme lack of interest (and sometimes lack of professionalism) in a spreadsheet and toss the letters and cards in the trash.

    I still have a rejection file. I keep the personalized, thoughtful letters. Someday I'm going to write a masterpiece and I want to submit it to those who took the time to comment on my earlier work:-). I also refer to those letters before sending new submissions to make sure I dont' repeat past mistakes.

  3. High Hopes sung by Frank Sinatra sums it up.

    Morgan Mandel

  4. I am definitely heading over to BRP to read and comment there too, but you know I recently blogged about my bizarre rejection on Zombies being "unfresh..." In the past, I would have dealt with it poorly, taken it personally. I actually laughed at the editor for being out of touch with a major trend, packaged it up and sent it back out to another editor that same day. I believe in the story a lot. It's just finding the right editor who also sees and understands my vision.

  5. I'm glad to see everyone doing what we all know is the right way to handle rejection - learning from it, deciding what we want to listen to and what we don't, then moving forward.

    That's not easy. And sometimes it takes a while to be able to do it. It took me a while.

  6. I had PTSD and my biggest trigger was rejection. I knew I couldn't handle rejection of my writing, so I self-published my first book and then spent a long time working directly with my readers. The book is about my fear of writing and the method I came up with to get over it. While helping others use my method, I gradually cured my own fear of writing.

    Now I've written my first screenplay and was able to handle and learn a lot from the critiques I actively sought. I applied the suggestions for improvement that made the most sense to me and found it incredibly enriching.

    I did receive a critique from a professional reader who appeared to hate my screenplay. I was depressed for about a day but then able to move on using more constructive input from others. But I still managed to use a suggestion given by the negative critiquer in order to improve my script.

    Meanwhile, it took a long time but I slowly found ways to heal the worst of the PTSD. Now I can put myself out into the world with less defense mechanisms and more real self-belief (vs. the manufactured kind). This all feels like Progress with a Capital P :0)

  7. I kept a file of rejection letters when I was trying to get my first book published. I pulled them out and would read them from time to time for motivation. I would show them - one day they would all be sorry.

  8. Thank you Milli for sharing your story. And what a great one!

    Marvin, they will indeed be sorry some day. It's good that you're able to look at your rejections as motivation.

  9. I admit, I take it all stingingly and personally. For critiques, I walk away for awhile, until I can set my coffee cup down without slamming it on the table. Then I look at making improvements to my manuscript.

    I write a humor column for my local newspaper. A man wrote in one week complaining that he hated my column because I'm so self-absorbed. Half of me said, "It's a humor column, Buddy, of course it's all about me." The other half of me said, "He's right, I should be interviewing the people who help at the soup kitchen." Good thing the funny half of me slapped the serious half into shape.

  10. I don't mind rejection-- no, let me rephrase that-- I mind rejection less when it's thoughtful and I can tell someone actually took the time to read my work. What I really dislike, though, is the one line 'no thanks' sprawled across my original query letter. Or the two rejections in a row with diametrically opposed reasons for the rejection. Ah well...

    Must go read about the zombies not being fresh post!

  11. Rejection is difficult, but I'm a bit better at dealing with it now than I used to be. Now I just curl up in the fetal position for one week instead of 2 months...

  12. It took a little doing, but I spent time honing a thick skin. Now, rejection is nothing more than an opportunity to find the right home for my work elsewhere. I won't say I delight in it, but I do genuinely get excited if there's a personal note involved.

    If I curled up in a ball instead of letting it roll, I don't think I'd have stuck with writing long. My hats off to those who take rejects hard but keep on plugging away. That takes mettle!



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