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Dealing with Rejection and Low Writerly Self Esteem

February 3, 2018

If my writing life were a movie right now, it would be a montage of different doors slamming in my face. A visual representation of all the NOs of rejection.

Everything I have submitted thus far to literary agents or writing contests over the past two years has come back NO

(Well, okay: I got one MAYBE but that turned into a NO).

So the tally so far? All NOs.

I did not expect to be so emotionally affected by this part of the process. (I thought writing the novel/essay/short story was the hard part oh ha ha ha).

It has been incredibly difficult to maintain my writerly self esteem in the face on all of this negative reception to my work.

All of these people? They don’t like ANYTHING I’ve written?

ANY? THING?

Well, okay. One person said they liked my novel’s title. But they still said NO.

  • Why is this?
  • Do I really suck that badly?
  • Seriously, what am I doing wrong here?

Oh, I know I addressed all of this already. I have written here about how to use rejection to improve your work and how to be BOLD and also how to not take it personally and blah blah blah blah blah blah

So I should know how to deal with this and not let it get me down.

And of course I am well aware of the the need for persistence. Rejection is part of the process. Gotta get all those NOs before you get a YES, right?

Persistence, persistence, persistence!

But how many NOs is it going to take? A page of NOs?

And what if it’s not just a single page full of NOs I have to slog through but 50 pages of NOs? And what if I slog through all those pages and there is no YES at the end?

That happens to people, you know.

Not everyone gets a YES.

Someone asked me: why don’t you self publish? Why do you need that external validation? Just do it yourself!  Give yourself the YES!

My response: that’s not what my dream is. That’s not what my Inner Child wants.

I am stubbornly sticking to my childhood dream and that dream involves traditional publishing.

I was a writer-child in the 80s when self publishing meant hammering it out on an electronic typewriter in the basement and distributing it to your friends.

And traditional publishing, in contrast, meant you had MADE IT to the big leagues. It wasn’t just for your friends anymore.

  • Perhaps this mode of thinking is outdated.
  • Perhaps it is a snobbish childishly conceit.
  • Perhaps I need to rethink my interpretation of traditional vs indie.

One thing’s for sure: I liked my writing life better when I was not trying to sell my writing as a product.

Because this is just a gloomy, grim, gritty place to be.

Ok: you are officially invited to my writing pity party!

In other words, this is the part in my Writing Life Movie where I cry and walk in the rain, get drenched, go home, tear up my writing pages in a fit of frustration, only to wake up on the cold floor in wet clothes, shivering amongst torn paper.

Full of remorse: Oh my god. what have I done? My precious writing!

So right now, on an emotional level,  I’ve got a Writing Life ‘hangover’ to deal with and a bunch of torn paper to clean up.

I need to handle that before I can rally myself again and leap back into the fray.

Ps. Any advice fellow writers, on how to better manage rejection? I can’t keep holding Pity Parties for myself!

One comment

  1. It sounds like you have the blues because the responses you’ve received haven’t contained specific criticism. Getting a “We’re sorry, but your book just isn’t for us. Regards, xxx” email in your inbox is unhelpful and alienating.

    I have to echo the person who recommended self-publishing. I’ve only made a handful of bucks at it, but I still wouldn’t have waited around for trad publishers to call my number. That would almost certainly be a years-long struggle, and the answer would still be “NO.”

    If you have concerns about self-publishing, how about a pen name? That will allow you to experiment without your “real self” being involved.

    Finally, I cope with rejection by reminding myself that we’re just specks of dust in a unfathomably large universe, and that everything we do is essentially meaningless.

    Or for a less metaphysical coping mechanism, the liquor store has some helpful products. 🙂



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