Rejection and a Kick in the Face

If you read the title of this blog post and you expected me to spin a lengthy yarn about how my latest rejection was a kick to the face, then you’re actually wrong. That said, I think this post is still worth reading.

Yesterday I found out that a short story that I’d submitted to a fantasy magazine had been rejected. As with virtually all rejections, there was no associated list of reasons why the piece had been rejected.  There are a couple things that writers typically feel when they get these letters that I want to write about:

First, don’t blame the publication. I know we’ve all heard stories about how ridiculously famous authors have had their books rejected and most of us have heard the stories about how, to see what would happen, people submitted a NY times bestseller to a publishing firm and it got rejected. Say what you will about the system or the man or whatever, but they’re just doing their jobs. The system isn’t there to coddle you, stroke your ego, or put you down humanely. It’s there to make money. Bottom line: if they don’t think your story/book/poetry/whatever will sell money, you get rejected. Writer self-help step #1: Accept this fact. It will never change.

Second: the Kick in the Face. If you have read this blog before, you may have seen this post I wrote previously about handling rejection like a true writer. I’m going to say something that a lot of the writing self-help books don’t say. When you get that rejection, you’re going to be pissed off. You’re going to be mad and you absolutely, positively will feel like giving up. Writers, when we get these rejection letters, will say and feel all kinds of  crazy stuff ranging from “my writing sucks” to “nobody’s ever going to publish my stories” to the absolute worst of them all:

Why do I even bother writing if nobody’s going to publish my work?

This is where the kick to the face comes in. It’s perfectly fine to feel these things and you should feel them – let yourself go through the range of anger, sadness, and dejection that comes with that rejection letter. Then kick yourself in the face. Slap yourself out if it. Realize that all of that crap is just that, crap. You write because you’re a writer and if you do it long enough and hone your craft enough, you will eventually find some success. You may not get on the NY times bestseller list, but there will be small victories.

If you can’t slap yourself out of it, then get a friend to kick you in the face. Last night I was babbling on about how I was going to give up writing and I quit and life sucks and why should I bother yadda yadda yadda. A friend of mine slapped me in the face and told me to knock it off (you know who you are…thank you!). What I intend to do is write tonight… write until I can’t take it anymore.

What I failed to remember, and what we may need friends to kick into our thick heads (hard!), is that we write because that’s who we are. We write because we tell stories, and we gain some satisfaction from telling and honing a story. Publication is secondary to writing, and every writer gets rejected.

So I’m taking my own advice: sucking it up, getting back on the horse, and moving on from yet another rejection and realizing that friends who can slap you around a little bit after a rejection are probably more valuable than friends who can proofread your stuff before the rejection.

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