E. M. Sherwood Foster is a creative writing student at the University of Cambridge. She writes on her blog Foster Your Writing.
Dealing WIth Rejection as a Writer
Writers deal with rejection. It's happened to the best of us, and it's just a part of being a writer. You might have read an article or two about rejection like how to deal with it, the right mindset to have, famous authors who overcame rejection, etc.
But there's a disturbing trend I've been seeing.
People have been aiming for rejections. While this might not be everyone's goal, it's definitely becoming a trend, a goal that writers believe they should strive for. A lot will even quote Sylvia Plath: "I love my rejection slips. They show me I try." And there's nothing wrong with trying! If you don't try, you'll never get anywhere.
But writers have been taking this to the extreme. They push themselves to write pieces for a certain number of journals in a year or something similar. They might be successful, but ultimately, they aim for failure. They fight for those rejections slips, but then they lose sight of the real progress writers should be making as they write. Here's why you shouldn't aim for hundreds of rejections.
4 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Aim for Hundreds of Rejections
- You Don't Actually Confront Your Fears
- You Don't Actually Progress as a Writer
- You Don't Make Things Easier for Yourself
- You're in Danger of Not Learning from Your Experiences
1. You Don't Actually Confront Your Fears
Many writers have a fear of failure. They're afraid to take that first step, send in that piece, because they worry about hearing the word "no." Or they're worried that they're not good enough, even if others say otherwise. Self-doubt is real in writers, and it very easily controls us. We can then easily devolve into the mindset that, if we hear rejections so many times, it'll get easier. We become so used to hearing it that eventually the fear will go away. It will become second nature.
But you don't confront your fears simply by giving into them. Purposefully trying to earn more rejections in order to get used to hearing "no" doesn't give you the opportunity to grow in your confidence as a writer. Instead, you shoot for the comfortable rather than the confident. Rejections become commonplace. Growing desensitized to them doesn't actively change your mindset to that of one who knows you confronted your fear and then found the courage to try again. While rejection is not failure, aiming for rejection means you're not allowing yourself to grow and embrace the insecurities the you face. Without facing your problem, you let those insecurities linger.
2. You Don't Actually Progress as a Writer
Most of the time, when you get a rejection, journals and even agents and publishers don't take the time to give you any feedback. They simply look to see if it's a good fit or they examine its strengths and weaknesses before coming up with a decision. If you focus on getting rejections, then that might just be what you get and that's it. You don't actually have a chance to improve because you don't have any specific way to improve. And if you keep working to get those rejection slips, you end up focusing less on actively trying to improve. The goal becomes more important, rather than the writing.
Progressing as a writer involves working to make your writing better and also developing the right mindset of a writer. When aiming for rejection, you don't even get a chance to learn what not to do if no one tells you. Take the time to practice technique rather than rushing to reach a goal within a certain time frame. Learning and practicing should be one of the ultimate goals of a writer. Striving for good writing is major, and if that is sacrificed in favor of only receiving a certain end result, whatever you write falls short.
3. You Don't Make Things Easier for Yourself
If you read about increasing your chances of getting into a literary journal, you've probably heard how you shouldn't send your piece out to several journals at once, or that you shouldn't refrain from changing anything about your piece before sending it off to the next place after a rejection. This is what you end up doing if you aim for a certain number of rejections. You don't end up increasing your chances. You just make more work for yourself.
This also just makes the process longer for everyone. If the work isn't what a journal is looking for, the members of literary journals will notice, and they'll realize that they were wasting their time reading it. You don't give yourself a chance to practice good submission techniques or even good writing. Take the time to actually work on your piece. Fall in love with it but don't be afraid to cut it into a thousand pieces. Put your heart and soul into it and actively search for the perfect home for it. It might be harder to hear no, but at least you're practicing your craft rather than falling into a routine, repeating the same mistakes.
4. You're in Danger of Not Learning From Your Experiences
Like what I was saying with repeating the process over and over again, you're running the risk of not really learning from this type of goal. You only learn to get used to rejections, instead of facing a negative experience and saying, "You know what? They said no, so what can I do differently next time?" With aiming for rejection, you're now saying, "They said no. I just have to get used to hearing it more and try the same thing with something else."
If it all becomes routine, you don't allow yourself to cultivate more positive mindsets and actually learn from what you're doing right or wrong when it comes to writing. Writing in itself is an experience, and there's a steep learning curve for everyone, in different ways. One of the worst things you can do is fall into a routine that doesn't keep pushing you forward. Take one negative experience and turn it into something positive rather than brush it off as trivial within the long term goal you have. Take a rejection and ask yourself, "How can I get better?" instead of "What happens if I do this again?" Find new ways to learn, always. With that, you'll start seeing results.
- How to Deal With Writer's Rejection | NY Book Editors
Eventually, you'll wear those rejection letters as a badge of courage, but for now, it stings. Here's how to deal with rejection as a writer.
© 2022 E M Sherwood Foster