How to Deal with Rejection as a Writer

Imagine spending weeks training for a marathon, putting in the hard work, the blood, sweat and sore muscles only to be told when you get to the start line that your running style isn’t quite right for this sort of marathon.

They might really like the way you sound like a pair of Victorian bellows when you run, but it’s just not going to fit their marathon aesthetic.

Not this time, anyway.

If you’re a writer, chances are you’ve heard something like this before.

adult alone anxious black and white

Rejection sucks.

And rejection after rejection sucks even more.

But I think rejection hurts so much as a writer because it feels personal. We sit with our thoughts (and our feelings) and we pour them into our work in some way or another. And that’s why it feels like a deeper kind of rejection when you finally get that “thanks, but no thanks,” message (or, occasionally, no message at all.)

Now I haven’t been doing this for years and years. I’ve been submitting my work for one year, to be precise, starting with the Commonwealth Writers Festival in May of last year and most recently, with a short piece called The Hanging Tree to a journal (or nine. I lose count). Thus far, every single thing I have sent out has been rejected.


So how do we deal with rejection as writers?

Well. I took away a lot of things from the Stockholm Writer’s Festival, and one of the most important things I heard was this:

For every rejection you get, triple your resolve. Send your piece out to three times as many journals as you had before. Be bullish in your convictions and be unwavering in your determination. You will get there eventually.

Now I’ve paraphrased, but this message came from Marina Blitshteyn, an incredible woman and poet from the States. Marina Blitshteyn is the author of five published or forthcoming chapbooks: Russian for Lovers (Argos Books); Nothing Personal (Bone Bouquet Books); $kill$(dancing girl press); Kaddish (Argos Books) and Sheet Music (Sunnyoutside Press).

And you don’t become a five-time published poet (or author) by receiving a rejection, crawling into a hole with your unloved manuscript and crying until the ink runs.


You do it by being committed.

You have put the time and the effort into that work. If you think their feedback is fair, consider reworking it, but know that you don’t have to. It’s your piece, your baby. (I’ll do a post about feedback to keep and feedback to toss later). And it’s up to you.

Seek out new journals that might accept your work

There are hundreds of them, thousands even, and most of them will accept submissions without a fee. I’m currently working on an ultimate list of all the journals you can submit to, their genres, and whether or not they charge fees. Check back soon for this.

Consider having your piece workshopped

If you get rejection after rejection, you might want to invite other writers to take a look at your work. They will pick out any elements in the pacing, plot or characterisation that we tend to miss when we’re too close to it.

And most importantly, never, EVER give up

It’s a tired quote, but it’s worth remembering that even the Greats have been rejected at some point in their careers. JK Rowling said on Twitter that:

“The first agent I ever queried sent back a slip saying ‘My list is full. The folder you sent wouldn’t fit in the envelope,”

“I really minded about the folder, because I had almost no money and had to buy another one.”

So dust yourself down, stick the kettle on, and breathe. You’re an awesome writer, and you’re going to get there.

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