Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Coping With Rejection

What do you do when you get eight rejections in one day? Actually, it was the middle of the night in my case and it happened last Sunday. And before you ask why my postman is working such irregular hours, I should point out that these were not the "large white envelopes lying on the mat" type of rejections. These were the sort you get when you finally decide it's time to check the websites of all the poetry and short story competitions you entered three months ago, in the hope that you actually won first prize in all of them but the competition organisers haven't got round to notifying you yet.

Although I've had multiple rejections before, this was a bit of a low point. This was partly because I broke my own record and also because I was so convinced I was going to be the winner of one particular flash fiction competition that I stared at the computer screen for about ten minutes, unable to accept the fact that I hadn't even made the long list. (My entry for this competition was one of those rare pieces where you feel like it's the best writing you've ever produced, the story more or less writes itself and you've even done some research on the judges.)

So what did I do? Well, I went through the usual ten minutes of hand-wringing and angst that I usually go through (multiplied by eight), telling myself that I clearly couldn't write for toffee and was about as likely to make it as writer as I am a hang-glider. Then I tidied my desk, wrote out my writing goals for the coming week and did a couple of hours crafting. (That's one advantage of having a "portfolio career". If one job isn't going too well, you can always work on another.)

The key thing is that deep-down, I knew I'd be back at my desk again, hence the need to set new writing goals, even though at that particular moment, I'd decided I was never going to write another word again!

It's taken me a while but I've come to understand that as a writer, how you handle rejection is almost as important as how you handle the writing itself. Yes, it's horrible and despite what all the books say, almost impossible not to take personally, but however much it knocks your self-confidence and makes you feel like giving-up, you just have to take it on the chin, put it behind you and get back to your desk again.

Of course, it may help not to think of it as "rejection".  A while back, I heard a radio report which said that the word "failure" is to be replaced in schools with the phrase "deferred success" . Would that work for you? Let me know how you cope with rejection and in the meantime, I'm off to find a new home for one of my "deferred successes".    


  1. Eight in a day - that is discouraging! Like you, I tend to have a blitz of competition websites to see if I've got anywhere. Usually I haven't, but it's particularly depressing when what you thought was a good piece doesn't get anywhere.

    I don't have any great recipe for coping with rejection but have found it goes through three phases: the desire to commit murder; a feeling that my writing must be absolute rubbish; reconciliation, where I look more objectively at it and realise that it was flawed but salvageable. Then I get back to work...

  2. Hi Vanessa. Great comment. It is amazing how quickly you can get over even eight rejections in one day/night although I'm not quite at the objective stage yet!