blog, creativity, writing, writing process

How To Bounce Back When Your Writing is Rejected (Even Though You’re Terrified of Another No)

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A boo is a lot louder than a cheer.
Lance Armstrong

Rejection is tough.

No matter what people say about collecting 100 rejections or actively seeking out rejection in order to grow, rejection never feels good no matter how you try to spin it.

If you’re a creative, you’ll face a lot of rejection. Your pitch, query, design or article will be politely turned down, or worse, ignored altogether. You’re hardwired to remember the negative more than the positive. But you go on because nobody has a perfect hit rate, right?

You try again, and again.

One day, another rejection is the final straw. You’ve been slaving away to make your work the best it can be, and you just can’t take any more. You stop working.

Each no makes you feel like an egg dropped on the floor. And this time, you shatter so badly that you can’t put yourself back together again. You know mindless distractions don’t help, but you numb the feelings with food or alcohol or endless scrolling anyway.

What are you going to do now?

Never Too Big To Fail

The reality is: sometimes you lose. And you’re never too good to lose. You’re never too big to lose. You’re never too smart to lose. It happens.
Beyoncé Knowles

Nobody succeeds all the time. When we see the hits, it’s easy to forget all the misses. And we never see all the pieces that didn’t make it into the public eye.

You are not your work.

You’ve put time and effort and maybe a part of yourself into your work, but it isn’t you. A rejection of your work doesn’t pass judgement on you as a person or your overall skill as a creative.

Separate your work from your self-esteem and reframe the loss. Maybe the piece wasn’t a good fit, or it was the fifth similar piece that month, or it was overlooked. None of that has anything to do with you. Remember opinion is subjective and what’s wrong for one person is just right for another.

Have a mourning period if you need it and then move on to action.

Take Two

Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.
Henry Ford

The quality of the piece is something that is entirely within your control. Feedback on rejected work is uncommon but take it if offered. It’s time to review and rework your piece.

Could it be better? The answer is almost always yes. Look at it with new eyes, or pretend it belongs to someone else. When in doubt, cut the beginning. It might work better without it, or with a new opening.

Learn to self-edit ruthlessly and polish your work to show its best features. When you believe it can’t be improved further, you’re ready for the next step.

A New Home

Have you had a failure or rejection? You could get bitter. That’s one way to deal with it. Or…you could just get BETTER. What do you think?
Destiny Booze

Take your shiny piece and resubmit elsewhere. If you want to be published in a journal, you have to contend with a very low acceptance rate.

Let’s say your journal of choice publishes four pieces by new writers four times a year. Only sixteen of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of pieces they receive will make it. The same goes for contests.

The odds are against you so you’ll have to play more games to increase your chance of winning. A tiny proportion of players become winners, but that doesn’t mean that the rest have no merit.

Alternatively, bypass the gatekeepers completely. You have the freedom to publish whatever you choose on sites such as MediumWattpad, or your own blog.

Believe in your work and search for a better home.

Climbing From The Wreckage

It’s you vs. you.

Dwayne Johnson

So you sent your story out to do battle elsewhere, or maybe you concluded it wasn’t in fact good enough. Your next step is to regroup and renew.

Look around for the next opportunity — a contest or publication. Use prompts. Or indulge and write something just for yourself. Make something new and make it great. Setting a deadline forces completion.

A portfolio of completed pieces boosts your confidence and drives improvement in your skills. No words are wasted whether they are made public or not.

Do you keep an ideas file? If not, start one. Capture them all in one place, whether digital like Evernote or the notes function on your phone, or an old-school notebook. When you don’t know what to write, pick an idea and write without judgement.

Don’t be derailed by perfectionism. Your inner editor will whisper, “That last piece bombed, what makes you think this will do any better?” Ignore it. Your job is simply to write.

Spew out a messy first draft and keep going till you reach the end. You can’t edit an empty page.

The first draft of anything is shit.
Ernest Hemingway

You have more stories to tell, so get writing.

Rise Up

Your ability to adapt to failure, and navigate your way out of it, absolutely 100 percent makes you who you are.
Viola Davis

What’s the real meaning of rejection?

It means you succeeded in facing the worldYou took a chance on your own abilities and risked the pain of failure. Rejection is a lesson. It asks, “How much do you want this success, and what price are you prepared to pay?”

There’s no shame in giving up a dream, as long as you don’t give up on dreaming altogether. There’s no shame in failure, as long as you use it to fuel your work.

Every five or ten rejections, reward yourself for effort. It’s painful and you deserve to ease that pain, even if you accept it’s necessary for your growth. We all know the Beatles, Ernest Hemingway, and JK Rowling faced rejection before they found success. But it’s still hard when it happens to you.

Nobody bats a thousand. But winners keep swinging until they hit that home run, and then they keep going. Athletes who didn’t make the winners’ podium carry on eating clean and logging training hours so they can beat their personal best and win next time.

To make rejection work for you,

  • Reframe the loss
  • Review and rework it
  • Resubmit elsewhere
  • Regroup and renew your efforts
  • Reward your bravery

Rejection is unavoidable, but you can work through it. Success is waiting, so keep writing.

A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.
Bo Bennett

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blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

Rejected? 7 ways to bounce back

Or, how to come out swinging… again

image: AlexVan via pixabay

So, your competition entry was unsuccessful. You get a polite standard email from the agent, or worse, you check the calendar and realise that no news is bad news. Your short story is ‘not what we’re looking for’ or they decided to pass on your poetry this time.

During this Rio Olympics season, it’s fantastic to watch people at the top of their game perform. But let’s not forget that the losers, those who didn’t make the cut, those who were pipped for the bronze, or who were off their best, all worked just as hard. They gave everything, but it didn’t work out.

“It is possible to commit no mistakes, and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life.”

Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek: The Next Generation

So, what to do when that happens to you?

1. Reframe

You are not your writing, even though you put part of yourself into it. This is not the worst thing that could happen, and it doesn’t mean you are a total failure as a writer and a human being.

Make sure that you followed all the submission guidelines, met the deadline, and didn’t fall before the first hurdle.

2. Review 

It’s uncommon to get useful feedback. If you get any, use it. I sent a piece to a magazine once, and while they didn’t accept it, they offered feedback. I grabbed with both hands, so to speak. They liked the writing but weren’t sure about the plot. I used that comment to improve, by going back and reviewing the story.

3. Rework

Maybe ask a trusted writing friend, or use point 1 and pretend it was written by someone else. By taking the emotional attachment out, you can see more clearly where it could be better (tip: it can always be better). Relate the feedback to your work, but take the useful parts and discard the rest.

4. Resubmit

If you conclude that the story is still good, it might be suitable to submit somewhere else. Keep a file of stories tagged with themes, and look over it when you’re thinking of submitting again. The judging process is subjective, and the next reader might love it.

5. Regroup

I subscribe to Writing Magazine and study their annual Writing Competition Guide frequently. There is an online edition, but I like to read a physical copy, with a mug of tea in hand. Plus, there is a section each month on where and what to submit, apply and enter. It’s invaluable, and keeps me thinking what next?

Find a reputable information source, and check back regularly.

It’s important to have a portfolio of completed pieces, first because finishing things is essential to progressing in skill, second because it gives a sense of accomplishment, and third because one day, someone will ask “do you have anything else?” and you want to be able to say yes.

6. Release

Write something new. Make it the best you can.

That’s easy, compared to the next part.

Take a deep breath, and let it go. Procrastination hides perfectionism; perfectionism hides fear, and fear is the enemy. Call it by its name. Step out of fear’s shadow and do the thing anyway.

You cannot win if you don’t enter the race.

7. Reward

You did it! You got in the game, and learned from the experience. Now you have to do it again, and that’s hard. Remember though, that whether they got a medal or not, all those athletes have to get back out there; training, eating clean, clocking the miles and gym hours, all without a guarantee of reward. And they have to perform the miracle again while the world is watching.

Pat yourself on the back. You faced down your demon and won this fight, though the battle continues. Keep a record of your campaign, take a small reward for effort. And make sure you have the right incentive in mind, a gift to award yourself for that glorious day when it all comes right and you are a winner. Be like an athlete.

Visualise success, work for it, believe in yourself.

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

Stop writing…

image: unsplash via pixabay


I have stopped writing.

Just temporarily, mind you. But this will be the first time in forever that I have chosen to stop, rather than come to an unwilling halt.

I will not look for prompts, or work on my second novel, or shop my first novel. I will not try mashing genres, short stories, poetry, or even so much as a shopping list.

The fact is, I am tired.

I had another rejection, and I just cannot bounce back. I think that sometimes, we need to withdraw. Pull in our horns, furl the sails, drift, rest. It is such hard work, ploughing on, ever onwards, isn’t it? I will let the wind die, the current vanish, the oars fall from my hands, and stop rowing. I will accept defeat.

There are cycles in nature, and in our lives too.

Sometimes it’s all growing, green, life bursting forth. Sometimes it’s harvest, reward for work well done. Right now it’s the hard between times; so much effort has been expended, yet the ground does not yield. Earth turns to dust, the rivers run dry, the rains fail.

I know there are ways round this. I’ve done it before. And, sometime, I will try again. Refilling my well with painting, photography, walks, staring at the sky, reading something new, it all works. Today, though… it is the time to lick and bind my wounds, feel a little sorry for myself, eat chocolate without guilt. Until I find the strength to take a deep breath and dive back in.

I will write again. Just not today.