Hello Rejection, My Old Friend

I was getting up for that mid-afternoon cup of coffee when I got an email.


Any writer – author, journalist or poet – who has work out in the submission pipeline, knows the email moment. The notification pops up on your phone or in your inbox and your heart takes a wild, insane ride. First, it goes up – way too high up – as your expectations soar. Then, you ground yourself, reminders of just how much the deck is stacked against you flit through your mind. Your heart plummets. Finally, finally, you get the email open – your eyes scan, searching for those all important words – pleased, unfortunately, with regret.

It does get easier. I have gotten a lot of rejections. In fact, I pride myself on being pretty good at divorcing the rejection of my work from the rejection of me as a person. There are a thousand reasons why a submission might not fit with a publishing house, magazine or newspaper and none of them have to do with my personality. As of late, the rejections have mostly been for agent requests. Given that agents are very specialized, those thanks but no thanks have been rolling off my back pretty easily – through awhile back I got six rejections in five days, and one was at midnight on Friday. That was tough, give a girl a break.

So, I get an email.

Automatically, I know this is a bad sign. This publishing house will call if they want to move your manuscript forward. I know this, but I let myself hope anyway.

It is a very constructive rejection. It is a hopeful and kind and that almost makes it worse. Like, if I had just been a little better at this, if I had changed that one element of my 80,000-word manuscript, maybe it would have been enough.

Who knows? I’d like to say who cares, but I do care. It’s less about boo hoo, woe is me, no one likes my writing and more about the constant struggle to move forward with my career. If this publishing house had accepted me, that would have been it. But, since they didn’t, I’m back where I was and without even the hope or potential of this acceptance to make me feel like I might be working towards something.

Alright. So what do we do? coffee-2151200_1920

Well, this is it. This is the part of being a writer that sucks so much worse than the movies show. This part hurts.

Suck it up buttercup.

This is as much a part of being a writer as putting the words to the page. It’s as much a part of being a writer as the late night edits and the early morning social media marketing. This as much a part of being a writer as every submission, every query letter, every synopsis.

These are the writer’s twelve labors, the baptism by fire, the hot coals we have to cross in order to make this our careers. If it were easy, if there was a path made of smooth, cool stones to cross this lake of fire, then everyone would. Every single kid from your creative writing classes would be a writer. Every freshman who worked on the school paper would write for New York Magazine. But it’s not easy. There is no clear path. Rejections suck.

But they don’t kill you. It’s easy to be a writer on the day when the words flow and the Amazon rankings spike. It’s easy to be a writer at the party, where people ask you cool questions about your cool and mysterious job. It’s not those easy days that separate the weak from the strong, the successful from the I could have been a writer. It’s not the easy days. It’s the days like these.

So we pick ourselves up. We submit again. We edit, we query and we submit again. We submit again. No one said the life of a writer was going to be easy. But, if we’re still standing at the end of all this, it might just be worth it. ♦



How do you get back up after that hard rejection? Check out tips here

411 thoughts on “Hello Rejection, My Old Friend

  1. Stars On Flames says:

    Seeing rejection and accepting it are two different things. A part of my thought process thinks that we should accept the rejection with a pinch of salt and just move on. Another part thinks that maybe I should make an effort to remember it and use it as motivation going forward. Y’know in the end I think you need a balance of the two. The problem most writing hopefuls have is that bills need paying and living paycheque to paycheque is hard when the paycheque will be far and little in between. At least in a regular job, if you turn up every working day, you’ll get paid weekly or monthly. I suppose that’s going off on a tangent but what I’m saying is a lot of failed writers give up because they can’t handle the constant rejection and the fear of being broke. I’m not judging! It’s a valid fear if you have a lot of responsibilities and I just think it takes a certain kind of mettle to tough it out as a writer in any capacity. Enjoyed reading this because I know exactly what you’re talking about. I can resonate with this on a writers level and just as a human. Simply put truth.

    Liked by 2 people

    • hollandrae says:

      You’re right on all points! I’m very lucky in that I am able to freelance and bring in money, so rejection isn’t a going to make or break me financially–but the goal is still to support myself writing and it can be tough to take those punches time and again. That said, get knocked down ten times and get up eleven! If we want to be artists in the world, we’re going to have to find a way to manage critique and no thanks–and balance is definitely key! Thanks for reading and much luck on your artistic journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Rainey Leigh Seraphine says:

    Brilliant Hollandrae, I have a few rejection letters from many years ago and gave up. Then with technology and indie author self-publishing, I finally have my work in my hands and it’s a most delicious feeling. Now to venture into marketing … yikes! But hey, I’m 62 and have nothing to lose, so ever onwards and upwards and continue the learning of my craft and my love of writing and designing children’s picture books. And best of all, I have something concrete to leave my children and grandchildren, yay! Your article is heartening and inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

    • hollandrae says:

      Thank you so much for reading and your incredibly kind words! I’m so pleased to hear you’ve found a way to make your writing and career work for you! It sounds like you’re on a dedicated and incredible path–I wish you all the best on your artistic journey!


  3. missmentalhealth says:

    What I find most interesting is the ability to recognise that a rejection on your work is not a rejection of you as a human being. I think I have that part down, I can very much think it wasn’t the right opportunity…on to the next.

    How about actual personal rejection i.e romantically, from friends/family. Is it harder for you to pick yourself up buttercup? It is for me and I’m still trying to learn how to best conquer this. Really enjoyed reading thank you 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • hollandrae says:

      Thank you so much for reading and your kind words! You’re right, it’s so so important to see it as just part of the process. I’m a very emotional person, so I tend to take rejections seriously when they come from people. Sometimes it helps me to improve myself, to be more communicative, more patient or more understanding, and sometimes I try to see it as a way to move forward without negativity or distraction. I think it varies from person to person! Good Luck!


  4. Deepa says:

    That’s so true Holland. I could relate to each of your words. Recently I sent a personal essay that I had published in my blog to an editor. Even it was not edited or republished by the person, my mail was acknowledged and answered. I know that editors are super busy and I was happy that at least she had gone through my essay and took time to reply without throwing it to the trash bin just like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • hollandrae says:

      Congrats on getting a response! You’re so right, it feels great to have our work acknowledged and appreciated. All I can say is, keeping sending out and getting those rejections until the perfect person gets your project! Good luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Amanda Gibson says:

    Echoing the sentiment that this is what I needed to see today!! Woke up to a rejection email, which totally set the tone for a crappy Monday. But thanks for the suck it up message – it’s a genuinely helpful kick in the butt!


    • hollandrae says:

      I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through it, but glad that you’re feeling revved and ready to go! Keep your chin up and your sights ahead, my friend! Best of your luck on your artistic journey!


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