All of us will encounter rejection at some time in our life, some more than others. Writers fall into this often rejected category. It’s a fact of life we have to learn to deal with.
I wrote a short story in January and entered it into a contest. We all know better than to get our hopes up, but I was certain this one would be the one to get recognized. All I wanted was an honorable mention.
Last week, I received an email notifying me that my story was not one of the winners. Thankfully, when I read the message, I was not at a place where I could break down and cry. Needless to say, I was not only heartbroken, but I felt like a failure.
On that night, I seriously considered giving it all up. And that’s not the only time I’ve thought about this. It’s an ongoing, nagging presence. I mean, after all, how do I know what I’m doing is any good or that one day it will amount to something.
The simple fact is, there are no guarantees.
So, how do we keep going when we feel rejected?
- Keep going. Even if you’re thinking abut quitting, don’t make a decision right away. Keep moving along with your regular routine, and let a few days past. It’s always best to distance yourself from the emotion so you can make a decision based on facts rather than feelings.
- Put it into perspective. Someone from the contest I entered sent a very nice thank you note stating that over 2,000 people had entered. Not everyone can always be first. Plus, even once we get to the published stage, there will be people who don’t resonate with our work. Just because you don’t win, or there are some people who don’t love your work, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not good. Maybe you haven’t found the right audience yet.
- Read like a writer. Once again, keep going. Find books and stories by well known writers in your genre and read with a purpose. Look for things they are doing that you may lack. For me, this is descriptive language. Currently, I’m reading The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. I love his descriptions, especially his metaphors. By reading and noticing techniques other writers use, we can learn to add these to our own work.
- Keep writing. If after a few days break, you think back and wonder if you were crazy to even entertain the idea of quitting. I mean, you could no more give up writing than you could give up food. Then keep writing. If possible, increase your writing. The more you write, the better you’ll feel about it.
- Publication may not happen. If you’re writing, you have a shot a publication one day. But you are absolutely guaranteed not to be published if you stop writing.
- Why do you write anyway? Yes publication and fame would be awesome. But is that really why you write? For me, I enjoy telling stories. I enjoy words. I enjoy having finished a piece. Find what you enjoy, and take the time to feel it.
- Having written is a feat. If you have completed anything, give yourself credit.
- Rinse and repeat. It’s okay to have to go through this multiple times. Keep going. Maybe, we’ll read each other’s work one day.
After all this, the most important thing to remember is that rejection isn’t personal.
Sure, it could mean we need to work on elements, but no one is perfect. We’re all constantly learning and adjusting and getting better.
If you let it, rejection can be a learning tool on the path towards greatness.