I have recently been conversing with writing friends on the topic of rejection. There is no way to get around it as a writer. If you send work out, you are bound to get rejection letters. Most are of the form letter variety, but once in a while an editor will write a nice note about your work or add helpful suggestions (that might be sugar coating it a bit) for editing the piece. While rejections in any form sting, there are positive ways of looking at the experience.
1. The more rejections you have, the more work you are sending out there. I attended a workshop with author and University of Michigan MFA faculty member Peter Ho Davies many years ago. He said his stories were rejected on average about 12 times before they were accepted. The more stories, poems, essays you get out there, the more you increase your chances that they will be accepted for publication.
2. I always like to evaluate a story after it is returned. If I receive critique from an editor, I try to look at it as a gift. Gifts can be taken or thrown away. If you don’t agree with the gift, or don’t like it, throw it away. It is your work after all. If there is a nugget of truth to the gift, don’t take it personal, play with what is being suggested. I like the word “play,” because that is what it feels like when I am working on stories.
3. I recently discovered that gardening and weeding and cleaning the yard are nice ways to work off any bad feelings associated with rejections and life, for that matter. It’s always good to step away and keep things in perspective. I could reiterate the stories of all kinds of famous writers who received harsh critique and rejection, but all you have to do is type something like “rejected authors” in Google and you’ll find plenty on your own. I figure they are like anyone else making a go at a writer’s life. They too must have felt the pangs of doubt creep in when those notes came in. What did they do about it? They kept going and going and going. They still keep going.
My mother used to tell me when I was running races, you are only as good as your last race. In other words, you keep going, keep trying, keep working to get better. That is really the best way to fight the doubt that comes with rejection.