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Wednesday Writing: How do you handle rejections?

As a writer you often receive a version of that dreaded letter: Thank you for your submission BUT….
When you send off your baby after checking you’ve followed all the guidelines the publisher/agent/ contest organizers want you to, you hope this would the one. The winner. 
But more often than not, you come across that dreaded “BUT”…
This is important for all writers worth their salt, because it affects their writing like nothing else. 
Rejection. Hurts.
And if a writer is not careful, it could become the staple diet for our inner critic, which keeps telling us,:
“You Suck. Your writing is USELESS. Go become an astronaut, a farmer, an electrician, or an investment banker, because you sure as hell can’t become a writer,  you will Always get REJECTED.”
Here’s how handling rejection used to go for me.
-For a few minutes afterward, I was blank. Couldn’t believe it.
-Then I told myself it was their loss.
-Then I let the piece lie, forgot about it.
This is what happens now:
-I’m still blank for a few minutes.
-Then I tell myself these things:
1. If I’m published, I would be happy, but it won’t change who I am…so I’ll go on writing.
2. If I’m published, I would still continue to write…so I’ll go on writing.
3. If I’m published, it won’t make writing any less torturous…so I’ll go on writing.
4. If I haven’t been published, I can do one of two things, polish the piece further or give up….and polishing the piece gives me better chances of publication. So I’ll go on writing.
This keeps me focused, positive, and best of all, it keeps me (in love with) writing.
How do You deal with rejection?
Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her literary crime thriller series, the Blue Mumbai, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency. Both The Blue Bar and The Blue Monsoon were published in 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • Rejection is hard and I love your attitude towards it. You're right – for many of us, even if we never succeeded in getting published, we wouldn't stop writing:)

  • Misha says:

    Hehehe that sounds like a great response. 🙂

    To be honest though, I'm not ready to query yet, so I've yet to face rejection.

  • Anger. White-hot anger is always my first reaction. Self-righteous white-hot anger at the stupidity of anyone so thick they can't see the beauty and perfection of my holy craft. Sometimes this anger lasts a couple of days. Then it's deep dark depression for a day or so and then, maybe, I'll take a breath and try to see the rejection as impersonal and subjective and not an insult. I'm very precious and thin-skinned. I also try hard to not talk about the rejection to anyone until I've reached the point where I can think reasonably about it. Because my initial reaction is, as I've said, entirely unreasonable. None of this is particularly useful for anyone else nor is it flattering to me, but it's the truth. I get really mad, and repeated rejections don't make it any less maddening.

  • Like M Pax I cried when I received my first rejection. It really hurt. Now it's almost a given. Personal comments on the rejection I now see as an almost acceptance. I received one yesterday that said my work had 'charm'. I'll take that as a positive… and chocolate helps too!

  • M Pax says:

    My first rejection … I cried.

    I still feel bad for a few minutes, but I immediately go over all the 'golden moments' and advice and puff myself back up.

    Rejection is part of the road. There's no other road i want to be on. 🙂

  • 1. eat lots of chocolate ice-cream
    2. get on the treadmill to work off the extra pounds gained courtesy of said chocolate ice-cream:)
    3. return to the rejected piece of writing and hone it down to its last, shining speck of perfection

    Nowadays, I've added two more items to this list:

    4. ensure I have a time limit of between 6 months and a year to sell that piece of writing.

    5. If no.4 doesn't work out, I ruthlessly self-publish, and attempt to gain feedback on my work. If all goes well, feedback comes simultaneously with selling copies to readers:D

    Whatever you do, don't lose your spark. I've long learned that what's published and what isn't has more to do with luck and timing than anything else. Cheers.

  • Libby says:

    Usually, they don't affect me because I get so many of them. Sometimes, I despair for forty minutes then suck it up. 🙂 I do try to do a light edit then send the piece right back into the world.