Coping With Literary Rejection

Professional rejection is worse than romantic rejection. Fight me. 

I say this because at least with romantic rejection, your wallet isn’t as heavily impacted. For writers, we’re putting the hopes of our careers on the line. When you put your future dreams on a publication (or a person, or a job), being turned down can destroy you. 

Suddenly, you wonder what it all was for. You wonder if you wasted your time. Should you bother trying to follow through with this career? 

It’s nice to reminisce about the times you enjoyed writing, but thinking of those times can also break your heart. All that time amounted to nothing. 

See how easy it is to wallow in the self-deprecation? 

Stop. Don’t do it. You’re not a teenager. 

You’re a grown writer, and your work is separate from you. 

I understand how anyone critiquing your work is like critiquing your parenting skills. Your manuscript is your baby. 

Except it isn’t. It’s a piece of work that you believe in. That’s as far as it has to go. 

When you let rejection rule, you create needless anxiety. 

Personally, I don’t believe you have to spend time feeling, unpacking, and analyzing such a simple moment in life. Especially a writer’s life. 

If you’re trying to break into the business, rejection is going to be an everyday occurrence. Sometimes your promotional work won’t get recognized. That tweet you spent an hour crafting to boost your email list only gets three likes. You’re ghosted on by potential employers, only to see someone else posting about their first day on the job you applied for. 

You get the “dear john” rejection letter from the big publishing houses. 

It’s going to happen, just like the scrapes on your knees from when you were a kid. 

You never identified with the scabs and bruises, because obviously, you’re not the same. You’re a whole person. The rejected work is just the rejected work. 

Maybe you do need to fine tune your project. Or maybe the reader just wasn’t your target audience. Always remember that some people like yucky tomatoes, and other people have taste. You might be the tomato to one person, but a nice ice cream sandwich to another. 

I’ve discovered some key pieces of dealing with rejection, as my writing life goes on. 

1.) Separate yourself from your work. 

I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating. A rejection isn’t personal. They aren’t saying you’re trash and should quit. Nobody said that. Probably just you said that. Dust yourself off and stand back up. If you lie on the floor and cry about your rejection, you’re wasting time that could be spent sharing your work elsewhere. 

Being a writer means you need to be malleable. Roll with the changes, and keep writing. Which brings me to the next point. 

2.) Commit to your creativity! 

Set aside time every single day to write. Be creative. Challenge yourself and expand your skills and thoughts. Use spare minutes to come up with stories. If you’re always practicing, you’re always fine-tuning your craft. This way, you’ll always have content to stay fresh and relevant. It doesn’t completely matter who reads it, as long as you’re heard. That alone is a success. 

Don’t sell yourself short. 

3.) Treat yourself with kindness. 

The cheesiest piece of this pizza, yes. 

But it’s true. 

You can’t waste time doubting yourself. When you start with the train of negativity, you slow yourself down. Then what happens? Two months pass, and you’re thinking, “if I hadn’t wasted my time, I could be in a different place by now.” 

That only leads to more wallowing, and the vicious cycle repeats. 


So what if you’re rejected? 

Open a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, turn on some familiar comfort TV, and take the night to yourself. Remind yourself that you have talent, because you wouldn’t try if you didn’t believe that. 

When you find yourself caught in that loop, breathe in and step back. Handle your inner artist like a toddler, which means gently, rather than critically. Speaking kindly to yourself and about yourself can have a massive effect on your resilience. Treat yourself the way you would treat a friend who experienced the same issue. 

You wouldn’t encourage them and agree, “yes, you’re terrible.” You would remind them that it’s only one rejection letter. A couple no, thank yous. A handful of ghosted messages. 

There are still so many more opportunities to take, and one day, you’ll look back on the rejection… and still probably be bitter. 

But you’ll find a win somewhere along the line to make that bitterness a tiny pill to swallow. Hell, you might even chuck the pill off a bridge and ride your lightning while you can. 

2 thoughts on “Coping With Literary Rejection

  1. I’ve wanted to get some short poems published and hopefully articles, but have been taking a break from the submission process. This motivates me to get back into it!


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