Rejection is all a Part of the Game

On Not Taking It Personally

Rejection. There’s nothing worse than experiencing rejection in any aspect of your life. That hottie you want won’t even look at you. The promotion you’ve worked your ass for went to someone else. And your brilliant story, with its vivid characterizations, setting and beautiful use of language, has been turned down by every single place you’ve submitted it to. Rejection after rejection after rejection; how do you keep your dreams of being published alive when you keep getting those damned form rejection letters?

It’s incredibly easy to say that one should just shrug and keep plugging away and not take rejection personally. But the rejections you get from writing should not be taken personally. Yes, you pour your soul into your writing; there’s no question of that. You get your inspiration from within yourself; the characters and story come from your mind, and the words are yours.

But having the story rejected is not a rejection of YOU. Don’t take it personally. Rejection is just a part of the game, and you don’t want to take your cards from the table and walk away. If you write, it’s a part of you and you don’t want to turn your back on an aspect of your life, do you?

Even with scores of stories in print, I still experience rejection. My work gets rejected all the time. And while I rarely write short stories anymore unless I am specifically asked to (it’s primarily a matter of time for me; I get ideas for stories all the time and write them down somewhere so I won’t forget them), even then it is NOT a guarantee the story will see print in the anthology (or website, or magazine, or whatever).

Talk about OUCH.

Here’s a case in point. I was specifically asked by a magazine to write an erotic wrestling story; actually, a sequel to a story the magazine had already published the year before. Needless to say, I was incredibly thrilled. I liked the characters, and I really liked the idea of writing about a rematch between the two. I pounded out the story, worked on it for a while, revised and polished it, and then sent it off.

You can imagine my shock when it was rejected as being too violent.

“Huh.” I thought to myself. “It’s a wrestling story…and wrestling by its very nature is violent.” This puzzled me, and the story itself was no more or less violent than the original story. But the truth was, the magazine had a new publisher, and the publisher was not into wrestling—although the editor thought it was a good story. And it was the publisher who turned down the story, overriding the editor. So, that was that, and I had nothing to show for my work. No publication, no check, nothing.

But I didn’t take it personally. I’ve learned over the years (of endless rejections) that it’s all part of the dance. I no longer allow myself to take that dark journey into despair that rejection used to cause me—perhaps its because I have published, I am not sure. But I always tell writers to divorce themselves from their work.

You aren’t being rejected. Your story is, and there’s a difference.

There’s always another hottie in the bar, after all, and there’s going to be another shot at a promotion at work. If a hottie turns you down, you don’t give up on sex. You don’t quit your job because someone else got promoted instead of you. And by the same token, you should not give up on writing simply because you can’t seem to sell that story. File it away and move on to something else—another story, a novel, something.

Keep writing.

Like anything, the more you do it the better you become. Andre Agassi didn’t become a great tennis player without practicing and playing every day. And writing is the same way. You get better the more you do it. Every day that passes you are a better writer than you were the day before, as you get more experience with it, and more life experience.

Always keep writing.