Accepting Rejection

Neva at poetry workshopby Neva Bodin

I just found out someone can hire a professional blogger…for $11.95 a blog. Perhaps there’s an employment opportunity! It’s on a website called www.writers-centre.org.

And I found an article I had saved a long time ago that first appeared in the Victorian Writers’ Centre newsletter, if that even still exists. It was about surviving rejection of manuscripts.

It listed many now famous authors and their now famous stories that were rejected multiple times. It then said being rejected can be a big plus—it may cause re-writes and new stories that are better.

Rejections may include suggestions on what’s wrong so a writer may improve. Also, publishers who reject a manuscript are not always right. A recent speaker at the writer’s conference I attended had published twenty books and was told by a new publisher that she was a terrible writer and should not write anything. Needless to say, she went with a different publisher.

This article said only 5% of the success of a writer may be talent, the rest comes from skill and persistence—perhaps 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.

It takes a strong person I think, however, to rise above rejection and persevere. I believe it may have to be an attitude adjustment.

I have an e-mail signature that contains the following quote to remind myself: “Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are lacerations of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil – but there is no way around them,” by Isaac Asimov

Dale Carnegie said, “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotion, creatures bustling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.” Perhaps the publishers think that about us, and vice versa. And we’d both be right.

Rejections of any kind are lacerations of the soul to me. I marvel at a two year old who is told “NO!” emphatically when he or she tries something forbidden. They usually just look you in the eye and try again.toddler with paint JPEG

When do we lose that ability to filter out the part that makes us feel like less than we are, and just try again? I’ve heard God makes us a ten, we do our own subtracting.

If we look at a 25 cent piece and say, “That isn’t worth 25 cents,” does that make it worth less? Does what others say about us or our writing make us or the writing worth less? Maybe I’m comparing apples and oranges here…but we need to truly discern the other person’s ability to judge, and whether we need to make changes, in ourselves or our writing.

Let’s not be so quick to accept another’s opinion. I am learning to look at a critique as affirmation that I have something that is worth critiquing! And also that I am just as valuable in my opinion as the person who critiques me is—and I can still be the final judge!

criticism quote JPEGHow are you at handling critiques?

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18 Responses to Accepting Rejection

  1. When I get a rejection, I tell myself there are other fish in the sea. When a story or poem is rejected by a magazine, I’m free to send it elsewhere. When traditional publishers rejected my first two books, my late husband told me to go ahead and spend the extra money on self-publishing them. I’m glad I did. They’re not bestsellers, but they’re out there, and that’s what counts.

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  2. Doris says:

    Well said and for me right on target. Rejection is just another way of getting to yes. A friend, who was in sales, said they were told for every nine ‘no’s’ you get you will get a yes. They made it a game to get those nine quickly so they could get the one. I’ve always thought of rejections that way. Doris

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  3. This is one area I actually excel in, Neva. When I first began songwriting and marketing those songs to publishers, I received so many rejection letters it was ridiculous. After the first one (which was hard to take), I began to take them in stride, recognize them for what they were, and use comments to better my writing. It only took the first acceptance to make me understand the process and vow to paper a wall with my letters some day. Great post!

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      Thanks Linda. You help amke those rejections seem normal, which it seems they are, and which is hard to fathom! At our conference, they say you aren’t a writer until you get a thousand rejection letters. Well, unfortunately, I haven’t put myself out there that many times so still working on it.

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  4. Mike Staton says:

    A publisher actually told a writer that her writing is terrible and should give the craft? That’s someone who should get “No. 1 Vicious Human Being Award.”

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      THat is the truth! There are critiques, and then there are critics. I usualy don’t agree with critics, but when their comments are aimed at me, it can be hard to deal with. Fortunately that author had already experienced success or she may have been shut down.

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    • Wranglers says:

      I was tilttold that by someone on a Critique site. That did break my heart, but I had forgotten about it. Now I know he was a jerk. Cher’ley

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  5. Nancy Jardine says:

    Thank you- that’s an interesting mix of things, Neva. Hiring someone to write your blog seems a bit pointless to me- although I can understand someone wanting to have a post every day if that’s what they had worked the blog ‘up to’. You’d need to be pretty rich to sustain that. Re the rejection thing- it’s always hard to swallow down the inevitable hurt but if there’s any advice given then it can be a salutary lesson. A blank rejection is another matter as there’s no way of knowing WHAT is considered wrong with your manuscript.

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    • Neva Bodin says:

      I thought hiring a blogger would be strange too, but I guess the purpose of a blog would guide that. Seems a standard answer for manuscrips is that they don’t fit what’s needed right now. That is easier to take than being told one has no talent! Thanks for the comments.

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  6. sstamm625 says:

    Thanks for the inspiration, Neva! When, indeed, do we lose that ability to hear know and keep going?

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  7. Joe Stephens says:

    I found that my first rejection, which was an actual personal letter with a suggestion, didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it made me make my first book exponentially better than what I originally thought was the final draft. It was the dozens of form rejections that seemed to say without actually saying that my work wasn’t even worth the time to give a second’s notice before rejecting that really were lacerations to the soul. After two years of those, I decided to go independent. I figured I was getting too old to keep waiting for that one agent or publisher to take a chance on me.

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  8. Gayle Irwin says:

    Great post, Neva! I remember that writer’s talk at the conference — I was floored! And, I cheered for her to move on to another publisher — such an inspiration! I am thankful there are multiple ways a person can publish these days, and I’m also thankful for our writer’s group and how we help and encourage each other. Thanks for sharing this insightful post!

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  9. S. J. Brown says:

    Early in my photography career I was rejected a lot. I kept shooting, kept sending out submissions and started using my initials. Now I have a nice size portfolio and a number of publishing credits. A rejection letter to me means it wasn’t the right fit for that publisher. Look it over again and send it back out.

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  10. Kathy Waller says:

    “Let’s not be so quick to accept another’s opinion.” Yes! Yes! Yes! Words to live by.

    My rejection story: I submitted 10 pages of a very unfinished novel to a highly respected conference contest, just to see what would happen, and received 80/100 points and some positive comments and advice. I was happy. The next year, having written nothing decent in the interim, I tweaked the same 10 pages a tiny bit and submitted them again. This time I received an 18/100. It took a while, but I got over it (she says, grinding her teeth), and the 10 pages turned into a story that went on to better things.

    What did I learn from the experience? A lot of the things you wrote about in your post, Neva.

    There’s more to this, of course, but I’ll save it for later. I feel a blog post coming on.

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  11. Travis says:

    Christopher Nolan, director of the recent Batmans and Interstellar, sent his first film to Slamdance Film Fest (for movies under $1m budget) where it was rejected. He sent it again the following year and won the festival’s top prize. So much is subjective in creative works. I’ve been in several critique groups and have found them helpful, although it is good to recognize the strengths of some critiques and ignoring others. I have to admit with my published work I feel vulnerable because once it is out there and I can’t do anything about if somebody points out a mistake or weakness. Often I’m not sure if something is good until I hear one or the other. One downbeat critique can damper another 5 positives. I know better, but sometimes it happens.

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  12. Wranglers says:

    The first critique I ever got was on my artwork. It broke my heart, but by the time my heart healed I was tougher. Rejections still hurts, just not for as long now. Thanks for sharing. Great photo. Cher’ley

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