#104: The Sting of Rejection

We won’t be publishing your story at this time. It’s great, but not for us. Thanks, but no, thanks.

Rejections come in many shapes and forms, and from various places throughout your writing career and the entire life. Whatever the packaging, they all produce that familiar sting in the gut. Your throat tightens. Suddenly, you become aware of your breathing. Your hopes and aspirations fast-forward through your mind. The self-doubt follows.

You may have toiled on that story for months or years. You’ve done all the difficult work and put yourself out there. Still, it wasn’t good enough. You’re not a good enough writer. You’re not wanted. Maybe you’re not even good enough as a person. Of course, none of those are true.

Thousands of things are at play when someone evaluates your work, most of which lie out of your control. Maybe the editor is in a rush. Perhaps they don’t have a preference for your genre, or they want a different kind of story at this time. Maybe the editor had a heart attack from working long hours, the publisher remains locked out of their inbox, and you never hear back. Maybe a famous author submitted a story at the same time, and the publisher picks it over yours regardless of its quality because it will sell better. Whatever. You can’t do anything about this. It’s not worth thinking about.

Even if the editor reads through the whole thing and rejects it then, they still don’t know anything about you as a writer or a person. They don’t know who you are and what you stand for. They saw a tiny fragment of your work and made the decision based on that. To be honest, in the context of your entire writing career, their decision is irrelevant. That is if you decide to keep working and submit again.

Being rejected brings about a flurry of emotions. The good part is that you’re in control of how you handle them. You can let the disappointment bog you down, or you can use it to propel yourself forward on your journey.

When I get rejected, I always feel the sting, but I make an effort not to dwell. Immediately, I start to think what next step I will take to up my game. Was what I submitted really an accurate representation of what I’m capable of? Is there something I should learn or focus on practising? I can always be better. Regardless of whether the dismissal was fair, I want to use the energy to improve. I believe that if I do that long enough, one of these days, a no will become a yes.

Everybody gets rejected. If you don’t, then you’re either the best writer currently alive (congratulations!), or you don’t submit enough or aren’t ambitious enough with where you submit.

Dwelling on rejections is a waste of time and energy, but even bigger waste is trying to persuade the person that rejected you that they were wrong. As I mentioned already, they don’t know who you are and what you stand for, but they don’t care. They have every right not to care. Rather than trying to change their mind, try showing them quietly with your future work that you can do this without them just fine.

What I Am Reading

I decided to hit pause on my read-a-short-story-every-day habit. I set it up to read more short stories back when I was reading mostly books. Recently, however, I stopped reading books almost entirely, and I just read my one short story every day. I’m quite happy with the short stories that I have read for now, and I’m going back to books for a while.

This week, I’ve been reading Take the Lead by Betsy Meyers. I wouldn’t call it life-changing, but the author does share several interesting insights. I guess the topic of leading is so abstract that it’s hard to convey in written form. I guess you learn to lead by, you know, leading.

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