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Dealing With Rejection

Today I want to talk about rejection and how we, as writers, deal with it. When I was modeling in Europe (MANY years ago), I went on castings nearly every day. If I did 20 castings in a week and got two jobs out of those, I was doing pretty well (two jobs a week is a LOT). That’s a 90 percent rejection rate. How did I deal with that? When I did a casting, I gave my all while there, but the minute I walked out, I forgot about it and moved on to the next one. I didn’t lie in bed at night wondering if I’d get the job (well, maybe now and then for a really big job), and I didn’t call my agency asking if they’d heard anything yet. I just assumed I hadn’t gotten the job and moved on. I didn’t, however, let that defeatist attitude affect how I performed at the next casting. I dressed just as professionally, acted just as perky and treated the client with just as much respect. Because that’s all you really can do.

Now that I’m a writer submitting my manuscript to agents for representation, I try to have the same attitude. Submit, then forget about it for a month or so before even thinking about following up. So far, I’ve received seven rejections—two form letters and five very nice letters in response to reading my manuscript. I still haven’t heard from two agents I’ve queried, and two others have the manuscript now. My situation may sound promising, and yet I get a bit depressed each time I get a rejection, especially when the agent has read the manuscript because, despite the fact that I know agents’ tastes are subjective, blah blah blah, I can’t help feeling that my book is just not good enough. It’s different from doing modeling castings in that a) I spent five+ years on this book, so I have a lot invested and b) I really really want to get my book published, whereas I never felt any emotional attachment to the modeling jobs I auditioned for.

So how do I deal with rejection?

a) I mourn a little. I’d be in denial if I pretended I didn’t care, so it helps to tell my husband, “I’m got another rejection letter and I’m a little depressed about it.” Anyone who’s familiar with Elisabeth Kübler Ross’ five stages of grief knows that acceptance is the key to dealing with loss.

b) I console myself. I remind myself that it’s REALLY difficult to get an agent, that the publishing industry is falling apart, that the economy has been in the dumps, that even in a good economy it’s not easy to get a book published, that famous authors have papered their walls with all rejection slips, etc. etc. And when that doesn’t work …

c) I drink some wine. Seriously. A glass of red wine can go a long way in easing the pangs of rejection. But drink responsibly, especially if you’re breastfeeding like I am! Then …

d) I exercise. This gives me energy, makes me feel more emotionally balanced, and makes me feel good about myself in other ways, so I can tell myself, “Well, my book may not be published, but at least I’m healthy and strong.”

e) I encourage myself. I remind myself that I just have to keep at it, that persistence pays off, that I can’t give up, that I can WILL one day succeed.

f) I commiserate with other writers. We’ve all experienced rejection if we’ve put ourselves out there, and it’s great to hear the stories of other writers like this one that can be both consoling and inspiring.

g) I work on other projects. These projects may have to do with aspects of publishing, like this blog, writing a short story or working on another book, or reading some good literary fiction to help improve my writing.

h) I question whether my manuscript really is ready to send out. In my case, because I was 90% confident that my book was done and not 100%, I decided to hire an editor to help me revise my book WHILE submitting it to agents. This may be a backwards way of doing things, and I agree with Sierra Godfrey that you shouldn’t submit until you’re 100% sure, but I also think, if you’re a perfectionist like me, you’re never going to feel 100% sure, and at some point you need to take a chance and send it out. Having received seven rejections (and yes, I know that’s nothing when others have submitted to 100+ agents before garnering representation and a subsequent book deal), I’ve made the decision to hold off on submitting to more until I do my revision. However, I do plan to …

i) Do more research. I will continue to research agents, so when my manuscript is polished shiny new in February or March, I’ll know who to query.

j) If none of these tactics works for dealing with the rejection blues, I suggest taking a break from your project—maybe take a vacation or read a good book or doing some gardening or something else for a couple of weeks, and then get back to it. Sometimes a little distance is all we need to regain our perspective on things.

How do you deal with rejection?

57 comments to Dealing With Rejection

  • this is a great one not just for writing – but one could apply it to anything – and if nothing works – there is always chocolate!

  • This is such a great post! I'm going to print your list out and tape it on the wall next to my printer. I think you've made some excellent suggestions.

    One way I deal with rejection is by playing some music. I play it as loud as my neighbors can stand it–AND THEN, I sing along at the top of my lungs. I love playing U2 to make me feel better. There's just something about Bono's voice on certain songs, particularly the track "Pride"–love it! Music is a great salve.

    I know your manuscript will be picked up very soon and I'm looking forward to buying a copy when it's published. 🙂 Until then, I'll keep the music up for us all. 🙂

  • Meghan Ward

    Aditi, I agree that it could apply to anything, especially c – and chocolate, of course!

    And Stephanie, great idea! Please do keep the music up for me since I can't play it very loud in my own house (with one of the munchkins usually sleeping).

  • Great post! I only sent out about fifteen queries, and after not hearing back on some and getting canned rejections on the rest, I said to hell with the whole thing and self-published. I've been really, really happy with my decision. So I'd add that as item k in your list: give the finger to the whole traditional publishing model and explore the incredible opportunities that are available for getting your book out there now instead of waiting for someone else's approval. It's very empowering!

  • timely post, Meghan. I'm dealing with it by psychically feeling sorry for myself and physically feeling my neck lock up. i plan on resting, taking an advil, then going for a jog, and keeping my fingers crossed. if i feel psychically horrible from rejections, i'll focus on my physical health. one balances the other.

    and…i *will* stay away from chocolate.

  • Meghan Ward

    Jackie, good for you for taking things into your own hands. Self-publishing does sound incredibly empowering!

    Jade, I'm sorry about your neck. I hope the rest and Advil helped. I am about to go jogging right now, although it's the last thing I feel like doing. Hang in there!

  • Hi Meghan. I really appreciated your blog entry. I used to act and go to several auditions a week and if I landed a gig once a month I too was doing well. It feels so different with writing. After I send a query off I wish I could just forget about it. I've gotten so close to landing a publisher for this anthology and then the rug gets pulled out from under me. What's hardest is mustering up the energy to resubmit again. Community helps a lot and reading postings like yours too. Thanks for sharing. Warm hugs

  • ok. i failed on the chocolate front: i had a handful of hershey's kisses. they were irresistible. i spent the day feeling sorry for myself, despite running and going for a walk. i think dealing with rejection is like dealing with heartbreak: there's only so much you can do to deal…mostly, you just have to let the heartbreak wash over you.

  • Meghan Ward

    Jade: I totally agree that it just takes time. By the way, I just ate WAY too much chocolate, but not because of rejection but because it was so damn good. What rejection are you dealing with today, by the way? A short story submission?

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