The Positives of Rejection

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Rejection stinks. Whether it’s your fault or beyond your control, it hurts. Nobody likes getting that email that says, “Sorry, but your dreams of publication are going to have to wait because we’re not taking this project.” However, there are some positive aspects to rejection. Once you get past the hurt, you may be able to see that rejection actually benefits you in the following ways.

  • Rejection means you’re putting your work out there. This is the single best thing about rejection. It you get rejected, it means that you put your work out there to be judged. Do you know how many aspiring writers never even get to this step? How many people just shove their work in a drawer and never try? How many people are too scared to try? The fact that you’re trying is huge. Rejection stings, but it means you’ve gone from someone who just wants to write to someone who is actively seeking publication.
  • You might be receiving valuable feedback. It’s true that most rejections are form letters that give you no clue as to the reason for rejection. But every now and then you might get a rejection that’s actually helpful. Maybe the agent tells you that your type of work is a hard sell right now, or that they loved the idea but just couldn’t get behind the main character. Of course, any feedback is just one person’s opinion and may or may not be valid, but if you see the same thing come up more than once it may indicate a problem that you can fix.
  • You might be carving a path for future work. If you get a rejection that says something along the lines of, “I can’t take this story, but please keep me in mind for future submissions,” you should be doing a happy dance. This means that the editor thinks your work is good, but that this particular story or book just isn’t right for him right now. Sometimes they’ll even tell you what it is they want. “If you ever write a realistic YA novel, contact me,” or “I’m really looking for a how-to article on building a bird feeder.” Write it and submit it.
  • You might get solid leads. Some editors will decline your work but will tell you that it would be perfect for their friend at “Magazine Z.” They may offer to refer you. They might suggest you submit to a publication that you’ve never heard of before. It doesn’t happen often, but once in a while someone may kindly point you in a direction that leads to publication.
  • You learn which publications and professionals you never want to contact again. Most rejections are either neutral or kind, but there are those that are cruel. Why people feel the need to be jerks when a simple, “No thanks” will do eludes me, but the jerks are out there. Add their names to your file so you don’t waste your time contacting them again.
  • You may have dodged a bullet. It’s possible that the rejection is the best thing that could happen because that particular agent, editor or publication would be a bad fit for you. Maybe that editor is a tyrant, or the agent is known as a problem within the publishing world. Maybe the publication never pays. Look at rejection this way: Maybe you dodged that bullet.




  • You get better at submitting. As with anything, practice makes perfect. The more proposals, queries and synopses you write, the stronger they become. Better submissions equal a higher chance of acceptance. So go ahead and get those terrible letters out of the way and move on to the good stuff. .
  • It builds a thicker skin. Every writer is going to get rejected. The first few sting, but eventually you become immune to the pain. You just shrug and move on. You build the thick skin that you need to survive as a writer. This toughness can also help you in other aspects of life when you get turned down for jobs, dates, and other awesome things that you want.
  • It tells you whether writing is the career for you. Everybody gets rejected when they start out and even long after they’re published. I know freelance writers who regularly publish in big-name publications and they still get rejected. Published book authors get rejected, too, unless their last names are King, Patterson, Roberts, Grisham, etc. It’s a fact of the writing life. If it makes you sick every time it happens, if you spend days wondering why, or if you have an urge to call an editor and beg for acceptance, these are clues that writing is not the career for you.
  • It gives you something to brag about once you get published. Think how good it will feel to look back on all of those rejections once you finally get published. You’ll have the joy of laughing at all those ridiculous letters and saying, “See, I told you I was good!” Of course, you don’t actually call anyone who rejected you and say this, but it feels good to think it. Plus, it gives you something to talk about in your interviews. “I remember the editor who told me that I’d have a better chance of succeeding as a surgeon even without going to medical school than as a writer.”
  • It can light your fire. If you’re a competitive person, rejection can make you want to work harder. Getting that, “No” can make you want to succeed even more, if only to prove them all wrong.
  • It may show you that you’re on the wrong path. If you novel gets rejected repeatedly, it might be time to finish that other novel you’re working on and submit that. If you’re trying to make it as a freelance writer but all of your proposals are getting rejected, it might be time to try a different niche. If you can’t sell a single article about parenting, maybe you shift your focus to a hobby that you have and write about that. It may not be that you shouldn’t be a writer, it may be that you should be a different type of writer.

Rejection is always going hurt, but there are some positive things that can come out of it. The trick is learning to look on the happier side instead of thinking that your work is terrible or that you don’t deserve to be published.


(Photos courtesy of geralt)

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