How do you deal with rejection?

Okay, we don’t really like talking about this part: rejection. Putting your work and ideas out there means giving other people the chance to say “No thank you.” Or “I love this but it doesn’t belong here.” Or “This is a form email.” (I mean, I kind of assume most of them are, but I got one that proclaimed it loudly.)

A couple weeks ago I got three rejection emails. Within seven days. That’s not very fun. On the glass-half-full side it means I’ve been putting my stuff out there a lot, but when you do that … you open yourself up to the possibility of three rejections in a week.

If you want to get published, you run the risk of rejection. So: how do you deal with it?


I have someone that I text with every single rejection. This started because he teased me that I didn’t have enough rejections, so I decided he had to know every single one. It’s not just about annoying him with texts – it’s about how he reacts.

He “judges” the rejection on whether or not it “counts.” Form letter? Yes, okay, that’s a “real” rejection. But if it’s got any sort of encouragement in it, like a revise and resubmit, it doesn’t. He focuses on the good parts and shoves them in my face and makes me go “Yeah, okay, fine, I don’t suck as much as I first thought.”

He also gets any good news texts, too, and this might be the more important part: even if he’s envious of my good news, he cheers me on. Lots of people just … can’t do that. So if you’re going to annoy someone with your rejection texts, make sure it’s someone who’ll be excited for you if you get a response that isn’t a rejection.

I also have a group who gets updates on a more relaxed schedule – usually about once a week. I can whine and complain and sort of get the “failure” idea out there so it’s not such a big deal. (They, too, are more apt to be “Wait how many things have you sent out???” and not secretly keeping a tally of my shortcomings.)

So: have your crew. Have the people who respond to your rejections the way you need – snark and dismissal work best for me, honestly. Then it’s not such a big deal. It’s just all part of the process, and they’re all rooting for me to get the successes. (Seriously, this can be difficult to navigate. Lots of people respond to good writing news with something like “Oh cool. My cousin is published.” Which totally deflates you because then it’s not special anymore. You want the people who will cheer for you, however small the steps, because man, sometimes they feel really small.)

The other important thing here is the fact that these are not general announcements to the world (or my social media). Have you ever heard “Don’t make it public unless it’s permanent”? Good advice. You don’t want to annoy someone who comes across your twitter feed, for example, and get them in a bad mood when you might end up proposing something to them in the future. And even good news, especially good news with a long processing time, might not stay – you don’t want to announce something eagerly and overshare, only to have to retract it later. Even with an offer, not everything works out.

So basically I follow two rules when it comes to rejection: 1) I don’t keep it to myself, and 2) I don’t announce it to the world. I’ve got my people, my team who’ll soothe my ruffled feathers and tell me to bounce up and get back out there so that, eventually, I can do the big public “Look what I did!” announcement.

Rejection is part of the process, even we don’t like to talk about it much – my support staff is a small group, thanks – and it’s something we all have to deal with. The important part is figuring out what approach is going to work for you and help you keep moving forward.


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