The Dreaded Rejection

Every writer can vouch for rejection. Every writer will experience this.

Rejection is emotive, it produces feelings of hurt. Writers take it personally, but you have to understand that it’s the piece of writing that was rejected, not you as a writer. There could be dozens of reasons for rejection. It doesn’t mean you’re rubbish and should instantly give up.

Writers do what comes naturally: they equate rejection with failure. It’s hard not to. Weeks, months or even years of hard work has been arbitrarily dismissed, leaving you with questions such as ‘Am I a bad writer?’, ‘Was my story that bad?’ and ‘Why am I a failure?’

The simple answer to those questions is, not necessarily. If you were lucky enough to get feedback with your rejection, that means you may have to tweak it and make changes in order to improve. If you don’t get any feedback with a rejection then don’t feel obliged to take your masterpiece and rip it to shreds in the belief that it’s rubbish and needs a complete overhaul. Leave it a while and go back when you’ve digested your disappointment and had time to think about it. Go through your work objectively and see where you can make improvements.

Don’t make the mistake of internalising your rejection. This just serves to make your thoughts fester and convince your mind that you’re a complete failure. Externalise that rejection into determination. Desensitise yourself from rejection. After all, it follows that the more rejections you receive, the less they will hurt. After you digest your rejection, look at your work carefully, tweak where necessary and re-submit.

Many writers don’t understand that rejection actually helps them develop and improve their work. Rejection isn’t a personal thing; it’s an encouraging way of aiding the learning process and yet many writers turn that fear of rejection into an excuse not to write. That fear takes the form of self-doubt. (More about this next week).

Continual rejections can shake any writer’s resolve. Praise from others quickly shores up your writing defences, but all it takes is one rejection or a critical review and those defences start to crumble and all that positivity is gone. Despite their underlying talent, writers can quickly lose confidence in their abilities after a gamut of rejections. It’s a typical, natural reaction because your self-confidence has taken a battering.

Remember though - most, if not all great authors have received rejections. Stephen King and JK Rowling, among others, received dozens of rejections for their work. Rudyard Kipling was told, “You don’t know how to use the English language” by the editor of San Francisco’s Examiner. The Diary of Anne Frank was rejected on the grounds that Anne didn’t have a “special perception of feeling”. Ironic, considering the trauma her family suffered.

William Faulkner’s Lord of the Flies was rejected because it was deemed an uninteresting fantasy, but he became a prize winning author, and even George Orwell’s allegoric tale Animal Farm was rejected until it eventually found a publisher and gained success.  Both the Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm are now studied worldwide by English students.

All these authors had one thing in common: they did what you should do - grit your teeth and persevere. Perseverance is the building block of success. If you want to succeed, you must persevere. Read up on successful authors and how they were rejected repeatedly – it will make you feel better.

Sylvester Stallone once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.”

So don’t stand still, keep writing, move forward and keep learning. We all deal with rejection in our own way and it until you become desensitised, it will always hurt.

Handling Rejection in a nutshell

1. Don’t take it personally. Acknowledge that everyone is rejected during his or her writing career. Quickly get it out your system and resolve to keep to a writing plan.

2. After a while, go back and look at the rejected piece objectively. Tweak and improve and follow any constructive feedback.

3. Remember why you write in the first place. Don’t be disheartened.

4. Boost your confidence by reading about how famous writers handled rejection.

5. Externalise rejection, turn it into determination and perseverance. You are not a failure.

6. Keep going, don’t give up. Rejection is part of the challenge. Are you up for it?

I’ll leave the last word to George E Woodberry: "Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure."

Next week: Self doubt.


  1. Great advice as usual AJ, I always look forward to new posts on your blog :)


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