Hanging in There: A Note on Rejection

hang-in-there-kitten

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!  Today, I’m going to talk about one of the unromantic parts of a writer’s life…rejection.

As a freelance writer, part of what you do is submit your work for publication.  After toiling away on your beloved novel/short story/poem/screenplay/article about Norse dragons, you send it out into the world and hope for the best.  It can be a little nerve-racking, like handing a carefully crafted Valentine to someone you’ve secretly admired for a long time.  You’ve put your heart and soul into it, and you’ve made up your mind to share it, but you’re still not sure exactly how it’s going to be received.

And sometimes (more often than not), things don’t work out the way you planned.  Your story about the telepathic penguin with a gun is too similar to another story the magazine has published recently.  Or maybe the story isn’t dark enough for the editor’s tastes, or the plot just didn’t grab his or her attention, or…or…

There could be any number of reasons your story just isn’t quite right for the publication to which you’ve sent it at this time, even if you’ve done your research and you thought it would be a good fit.  Usually, you don’t receive any feedback about why.  Most editors are too busy to respond to submissions individually.  You tend to get form letters instead: “Thank you for your submission.  Unfortunately, it was not right for us.  Best of luck placing this elsewhere.”

If you are trying to be a serious freelance writer for any length of time, you will get a rejection like this.  Then you will get another.  And another.  And another.  At times, your life seems to dissolve into a gray haze of painful rejections.  Perhaps you’re never going to find love, or a home for your writing.  Perhaps you should just give up and move back to the carrot farm.

But if you really want to succeed at writing, or at anything, you can’t give up!

Stephen King nailed his rejection slips to a wall in his house.  When the pile of slips got too heavy for the nail, he replaced it with a spike and kept writing.

J. K. Rowling’s manuscript Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was rejected by about a dozen publishers before it was sold.

Thomas Edison’s team tested over 6,000 plant materials before finding the right element for the first commercially viable electric light bulb.

So…what should you do?

Keep trying.  Learn from your mistakes.  Heed the advice of others, while taking everything with a grain of salt.  Don’t take rejection personally; it’s a fact of life.  Work hard to make your work the best it can be.  Write regularly.  Edit fiercely.  Submit boldly.  Keep trying.

One of my favorite children’s authors, the late Jean Craighead George, offered me this advice: “Do what you love and you will succeed.”  I have taken this message to heart and carry it with me wherever I go.

Hang in there, everyone.  Keep doing what you love.  Good luck with those Valentines.

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