Creative Combat Arms: Handling Rejection

Panama Jacks a harsh editor

So you wrote something you think is awesome.  I’m assuming you do, otherwise you’d write it better… so with that glowing assessment of your own work as a given, you decry “The world must see this!”  And you send it off to the editor of a prestigious publishing house so they can agree with you.

But the editor says no.  And after you call that person a dumbass, you send it off to an editor with more genius and a real appreciation for literature.  And that editor says “Hell yes, I want this!”  Nah, just playing… they serve you up a hot pile of no and tell you to kick rocks.

That’s just the start.  You get enough rejections to stuff a few pillows with.  Feel bad yet?  Most writer advice tells you that you shouldn’t, gives you a few good reasons to not feel dumped on, and tells you to cheer up.  I say cheer is for your laundry and you should feel bad!

It’s rejection.  The same reason guys don’t ask girls out even though they want to really really bad.  The same reason public speaking is the number one fear of Americans.  Rejection sucks and inherently you know that.  Optimism in the face of rejection is the stuff of cults.

No, I’m not telling you to give up writing and submitting your work to avoid rejection.  Hell, that’s just self-rejection.  Nope, you wrote it, you think it’s awesome… why change your thinking just because of few dozen people told you to suck it via a form rejection letter?

If writing and submitting is like trying to find a prom date as a smallpox leper and not submitting is like locking yourself in the bathroom and breaking the mirror because what you see in it is too too ugly,  how do you handle the rejection?  It’s simple.  You keep it coming.

It’s no accident that this site’s subheader is “war stories of a writer in the trenches”.  Those rejections are like bullets whizzing past your head and mortars shelling your position.  The first few times that happens you’re shocked and dismayed.  You want to retreat to somewhere safe.  This is not as glamorous as you pictured it to be.  The whole thing is crazy.  But if you stay in the trenches, why something even crazier happens.

You get numb to it.  Wonderfully numb.  That, my friends, is the only real way to handle rejection.  You have to keep writing and submitting knowing full well somebody somewhere is itching to hand you the goat behind door number 3.

Meanwhile, there are things you can do while submitting to minimize rejection.  First and foremost, make sure you can write.  I’ve already talked about this, so feel free to check it for a refresher if you need to.  Second, send what you wrote to the markets that are most likely to receive it… your extraterrestrial erotica will not be well received at Heroic Fantasy Quarterly.  Third, be petty.  Yes, petty.  If thoughts of who you’re going to put on blast after you finally get discovered  gets you through a couple of tough rejections, I say spare no ammo daydreaming of their ruin.  It helps.

I know because this actually came to fruition once.  My story “Slave Driver” got  rejected by AlienSkin magazine.  It’s a light, campy story, sure… but this site had light, campy stories and truthfully, some of their stories were plain bad.  So I put it to them because I didn’t mind token pay for it and at the time I figured I was doing them a favor… so when I got their no it was like the smallpox leper telling me they had better things to do than hang out with me.  Word?  I entertained my petty thoughts of their demise and kept submitting.  Everyday Weirdness picked it up and published it a short time later… and shortly after that, AlienSkin went out of business.  Who’s feeling rejected now?

Tips aside, rejection is a part of this world of writing.  Hopefully what I’ve said will help, but it’s mostly your own determination that will win the war.  While you’re fighting it though, enjoy the following as a theme song for the aspiring writer.


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