Off the Cuff: Soldier on

Every writer faces rejection. The key to success? Keep at it.
By Harvey Rachlin | Published: June 3, 2013


iStock_000009665870MediumCertain things are a natural part of every writer’s life: eating, sleeping, writing – and rejection. The last is almost always emotionally painful, but it’s one of the main occupational hazards of being a writer. Everyone, from beginner to seasoned pro, gets those demoralizing little notes. While no advice can take away the sting, the following 10 tips can buoy your spirits and keep you on track.

1. Deal with your feelings.

After a rejection, it’s natural to feel down or even despondent, and denying or bottling up feelings can be harmful. You’re free to wallow in misery, but deal with it in a healthy way: Write about it, talk to others, have a pep talk with yourself, have an ice-cream cone, punch a pillow. Indulge the feelings, but only for a limited time. Remember, it’s a rejection, not a life sentence. Get a grip and move on.

2. Accept that rejection is a way of life for writers.

Don’t dwell on this thought, just know that it happens. You’re a writer. This is part of your professional life.

3. Rejection should never diminish self-worth.

You are not your rejected work. As a writer, you’re on a journey with bumps in the road. Believe in yourself, and figure out how to surmount obstacles.

4. Channel rejection into motivation.

Do you believe the agent or editor who rejected your work is wrong? Use that energy to fuel a reconstituted campaign to send the work to new editors. If you believe the rejection was valid, use the energy to revise and improve your work.

5. Continue to dream.

Dreaming of literary success is probably what got you into this business; it’s what success is built on. If you don’t have a dream, you have nothing to work toward.

6. Know that there may be many rejections before you get an acceptance.

In some respects, getting published is a numbers game. A certain number of people will like your work, and a certain number won’t. You have to find the former. Publishing lore abounds with tales of a book being turned down by one publisher after another, only to finally find a home and go on to great success.

7. Find the right fit.

If you submitted to a top agent or editor, a rejection of your work is not necessarily a reflection of its true merit. Submit to an agent with a smaller roster of authors or a publication that is not quite so prestigious.

8. Get back to writing.

Don’t let rejection slow you down. After the trauma of rejection is out of your system, go back to doing what you love – writing. Set your mind to crafting some of your best work ever.

9. Remember: Rejection is one person’s opinion.

Literary taste is subjective. Don’t let one person’s take on your work get you down. Do more homework and find another agent or editor.

10. Continue to send your work out.

You cannot realize your publishing dreams unless you send out the work. No one is going to come knocking on your door. You have to knock on theirs – and you have to keep knocking until someone says, “Who’s there?”

Harvey Rachlin has written 13 books and contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times (London) and The Jerusalem Post.