After all that hard work, you’re finally finished with your manuscript. You send it off to the prospective publisher of your choosing with fingers crossed and butterflies in your stomach.
Days pass, soon turning into weeks or months, until that fateful email arrives in your inbox. You open it, ready for all your dreams to come true, only to come face to face with:
“We’re sorry, but unfortunately…”
Throughout your writing career, you will most likely receive many rejection letters. They can be daunting and debilitating. The good news is, you aren’t alone: every writer deals with these letters. This includes the professionals. They’re lucky enough to look back at all the publishers that turned them down and laugh at them, but they were still turned down.
Only a select few literary anomalies get published on their first try, so avoid comparing yourself to them. If you focus on all of your shortcomings, you won’t see all the things you’re doing right.
Some writers advise keeping rejection letters as a sort of trophy. They can serve as a bread crumb trail for your writing, signifying different stages of where you’ve been. And what a collection to show off!
Other writers use these letters to fuel their drive forward. Neil Gaiman once said on his blog, “The best reaction to a rejection slip is a sort of wild-eyed madness, an evil grin, and sitting yourself in front of the keyboard muttering ‘okay, you bastards. Try rejecting this!’ and then writing something unbelievably brilliant”.
The rejection letter serves as an indicator for growth. If you receive a letter declining your work, that just shows you it hasn’t reached its ultimate form. Congratulations, you’re one step closer to crafting the greatest version of that particular story or poem or whatever. If the editor provides you specific feedback on your submission, even better. You now have a compass pointing you in the right direction.
That being said, getting rejection letters still hurts. There’s no doubt that you worked hard on your draft: writing and rewriting sequences, killing your darlings, and stitching up plot holes takes a lot of time and effort. Admittedly, it can feel like you’ve wasted your time working on something only for it to fall flat.
Let yourself feel that frustration. Take as much time as you need to wallow in that feeling, and soak it all in. Use it to motivate the next step of your process.
After absorbing all that rejection comes the hard part. You must move on. Accept that your work isn’t quite there yet, then get back to work. You can’t move into the future if you’re stuck in the past. Tell yourself, “it’s almost there,” and comb back through your writing to make it even better.
Success is a luxury we all hope to achieve, obtained only through the misery of rejection. Getting over rejection letters involves a lot of mind games and paradigm shifts, but as time goes on, your work will pay off. Even if you aren’t immediately published, you’re still investing time in developing your creative skills and exercising a passion.
is a writer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Graduating in May 2020 with a degree in English Literature with a Writing Emphasis, Ian writes comics, poetry, and scripts. He is currently an intern for The Brain Health Magazine and aims to work in the comic publishing industry. In his spare time, Ian plays Dungeons & Dragons, board games, and bass guitar.