Taking a hit – a writer’s toolkit for rejection

Laura Tobias’  Mars, Venus, and the Rejection  at the PenWarriors.com blog is a humorous reflection on the impact rejections make on a writer.

Of course writers aren’t alone – everyone experiences rejection at one time or another. Those of us who put our personal creations out to the world – whether they be stories, songs, dances, or paintings – are inevitably going to be judged on those creations. That judgment may be harsh, approving, or indifferent. I’ve sold 29 novels to major publishers, and one book on writing. I’ve also received my share of rejections. Some rejections haven’t had much of an impact while others have been devastating. A couple of times I’ve had works that I thought were my best rejected, and those rejections hit harder than others.

Usually I’ve been able to learn something from the rejections, sometimes a valuable lesson in craft or marketing. One rejection that came marked the beginning of a period when I had a lot of trouble believing in myself as a writer. I realize now that the rejection probably hit harder because it came shortly after my mother’s death, although I didn’t make the connection at the time.

Every human being gets rejected and it’s difficult for us to avoid taking the “no” as a denial of personal worth. The thing about rejection is that it’s often out of our control. No story will please every reader, and we can’t control the realities of publisher’s balance sheets, marketing research, and editorial opinions. All we can do is tell the best story we can, in the best way we can, and get it out there for people to read.

I’ve gathered a collection of tools to deal with my own crises of confidence. Here are the things that work best for me:

  • Sharing: My first instinct is to keep the rejection and my reaction inside, but I’ve learned how important it is to share it with trusted people. My husband is a great help because he believes in me when my own confidence falters. I know my PenWarrior.com friends will offer support and realistic advice, and they’ll usually share some of their own experiences, which helps me remember I’m not alone.
  • I treasure these books:
    • Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. This little book of essays is a treasure filled with humor and wisdom!
    • The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression by Eric Maisel. Amazing wisdom and excellent advice based on the experience of many other creative people, and Maisel who is a great creativity coach. Maisel has a number of other books that give practical, inspiring advice to empower yourself and your creativity.
    •  The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. One of the most valuable things I learned in this book is to focus on my circle of influence, not my circle of concern. Basically, this means to put my energies where I have power, not on the things that are out of my power. I can’t control what a publisher does, but I can make sure I write the best book I know how, work on my skills, and get my stories out there where people can read them.
  • Remind myself that many excellent authors have had amazing, great stories rejected, then later famously published
    • Stephen King nailed all the rejections he got for Carrie (his famous first novel) to a spike in his bedroom. One of those letters read: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.”
    • J. K. Rawlings’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (laterSorceror’s) Stone was rejected by 12 publishers before the daughter of Bloomsbury’s CEO begged her father to publish it.
    • Read about these and other rejections of famous, successful authors
Now, if I can just remember all this the next time I get a rejection!

Vanessa