A Writer’s Guide to Overcoming Rejection
Toyota is a popular brand but it’s not everyone’s favorite. Coca-Cola has stayed with us for more than a century but some consumers will choose Pepsi ahead of Coke. Does that imply that Coca-Cola is a terrible product? No! Simply because your cousin is a fan of Toyota has nothing to do with the market share of Nissan. If you will go far in your chosen field, you must know how to handle rejections and its sibling – criticisms.
As a writer, you may have the power to control many things but the choice of your readers is not one of them. Life will be with fewer worries once you know that you can’t write for everyone. Not everyone is going to like you or click a love button for your posts. Just the same way, Coke is not the favorite drink of everyone.
- Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl was rejected 15 times before it was published.
- Carrie by American author, Stephen King, was rejected 30 times before it was published.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by American philosopher, Robert M. Pirsig, was rejected 121 times before it was published.
- George Orwell’s classic allegory, Animal Farm, was rejected because “there is no market for animal stories in the USA.”
- Dune by American science fiction writer, Frank Hebert, was rejected 23 times before it was published.
- The famous writer of detective novels, Agatha Christie, had to wait four years before getting published.
- The popular work of J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, was rejected 12 times before it got published.
- American novelist and poet, Gertrude Stein, submitted poems for 22 years before having one published.
- Gone with the Wind by American author and journalist, Margaret Mitchell was rejected 38 times before it was published.
- The Thomas Berryman Number by American author, James Patterson, was rejected by 31 publishers. It won an Edgar for Best First Novel.
Finally, you have no reason to doubt me when I say that you are not alone in the school of rejections. This parcel of inspiration should take away your worries when next you encounter any form of rejection. However, I’d like you to pay attention to some truths about rejection and criticism.
Practical Truths About Rejection
1. You are not alone
The ten authors listed above produced some of the best literary works that world has ever seen and received massive approval from readers from different parts of the world. But they had their own fair share of the sour grape – rejection topped with some scathing comments from editors. If you want to be a writer, you have to brace up knowing that this is just a phase of life that will soon be over. Expect it, prepare for it and overcome it.
2. Rejection hurts
Even if the world of letters is your oyster, a pinch of rejection hurts. It’s like the sting of a starved bee. I can imagine how it feels. After enduring hours of solitude before a blank screen, you weaved a beautiful fabric of letters and only for it to be thrown into a trash can.
3. Don’t take it personal
If you are facing rejection from an audience, it’s very important for you not to take it as a personal attack. It could be that your readers don’t have interest in your work and not necessarily your personality. Rejection of your work has nothing to do with who you are as a person. Learn to separate the approval of your work from the love for your personality; they are two different entities.
“We all learn from lessons in life. Some stick, some don’t. I have always learned more from rejection and failure than from acceptance and success” – Henry Rollins
4. Be Objective and open-minded
In situations where readers or editors reach out to you with comments about your work, be objective in your approach and focus on comments that will improve your work. About two years ago, one of my frequent readers reached out to me on Facebook and pointed out how I usually confuse “being” with “been.”
It was a good call for me, I paid a visit to my grammar textbook and became more conscious when I use those words in my writing. This is just one of several instances where comments from my readers have helped improve my work. Approach criticisms with an open mind believing that you will find ways of getting better in your craft.
5. Take a break
To navigate through the trenches of rejection without getting hurt, you may treat yourself to a short break. If you feel overwhelmed by the knocks, take a break from active writing for two weeks.
Travel to new places, hang out with friends and explore the literary works of your favorite writers. In this transient moment of recuperation, your wounds will heal and you will find the strength to write again.
Also published on Medium.