If you haven’t received a number of rejection letters, then you’re probably not a writer. Or at least you’re not a writer who is submitting your work to others for publication. For many, rejection letters sound the death knell of their career. Yet it’s not the letters that end a writing career, it’s how a writer responds to those letters. Giving up on your writing is a choice.
In my early writing days, I decided to consider rejection letters as a sign from the universe that I was a writer moving on the path. I made a conscious decision to be thankful for each letter. AND when I received a letter with a personal note, I danced (literally) around my living room, thankful that someone thought enough about my writing to either give me encouragement or advice. I’m in good company with this practice. The first time Kathyrn Stockett, author of The Help received a rejection letter she was thrilled and called all her friends to share her excitement. With each rejection letter, she went back to her manuscript to "fix" what wasn't working. She received 60 more letters saying “no thank you” before she found a home for The Help.
I recently received a letter from someone telling me that she felt blocked and stopped writing because of rejections. With each rejection she felt like a failure. If you want to be a “traditionally” published writer then rejection letters are part of the process. Learning to cope with rejection is critical.
Below are my 5 rules regarding rejection letters.
After submitting a manuscript to an editor who actually gave me some personal feedback, I knew her comment about the depth of my character was true. I used her criticism to rework the manuscript and submitted it for an artist's grant. I was awarded the grant.
Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language and Emily Dickinson was told her poems were devoid of any poetic qualities. They kept writing.
A publisher told Fitzgerald, “You'd have a decent book if you'd get rid of that Gatsby character”.
Beatrix Potter initially self-published the Tale of Peter Rabbit after it had been turned down many times.
5. Do something with the letters that reminds you it’s not the end and then JUST KEEP WRITING.
Pat Schmatz, author of the award winning YA Book, Blue Fish papered her bathroom with her rejection letters. When she was ready to move, she had to figure out how to take the letters with her.
At this stage in my writing life when I open the mail and receive a rejection I say to myself: “Hmm, not the right publishing house…that means I’m getting closer to find the right match for my manuscript. Thanks.”
Do you have a unique approach to dealing with rejection letters? Can you see yourself trying one of the above suggestions? I’d love to hear your thoughts.