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. alittlebutnotalot says:

    After so many rejections, or not even submitting for fear of rejection (which is my case) it’s hard to put myself out there vulnerable. All things I write about are either true stories of my life, or my poems and short stories. Of course, I think that they are worthy. Over the years I have trashed so many because they didn’t meet my requirements, and I have scrutinized and critisized my own work to the point that I feel that it is perfection. And because I wor so hard on one piece, I can’t imagine if I am being that hard on myself, what others would think. My blog is just trated, some are just a few little rants, some are a few poems I’ve written or a slam poem. I just feel that with my already low self esteem about my writings, that I could not internally handle other folks critisicms and rejections. I have been trying to get past that, as my blog does not have a anme or a face, just anonimity so thatI feel that I would be less embarassed to put myself out there on such vulnerable material. Thanks for listening and I hope that you continue to succeed in your enture, as I try to get mine off the ground… alittlebutnotalot


    • hollandrae says:

      Thank you very much for sharing your story! I think we all define success differently, so if success for you is reaching that standard, keep working toward it until the piece is perfect. The truth is, rejection is a guarantee when it comes to art, but if you think of it as a stepping stone toward better work and commercial viability, then it becomes much easier to bear! Wishing you all the luck on your journey!


  2. alittlebutnotalot says:

    I hope that you do not mind that I pasted your url for this post on my WordPress in a vlog called Creativity, A Dying Breed. I felt it necessary, as I read your blog and felt that I could relate, but not so much as rejection, but afraid to submit for fear of rejection. I felt that your post had a lot of weight of where I was coming from and was thought provocative and a great motivational piece. Thanks


  3. elvenom says:

    In my country, they don’t even bother to reply at all if they don’t like the manuscript. A writer is only messaged back if he is approved. I’m not sure what case is worse, but in any way it’s sad.


  4. tayeonline says:

    I remember the thrill I felt when my first comment on some anonymous philosophy – blog appeared , it felt like I were published by Everyman’s Library . To know that one is not alone in this, helps.Thanks for sharing.


  5. Ali says:

    I wonder if rejection sorts the writers who are or aren’t compelled to write? Ultimately I write because I have to. It is like stretching, or feeling the sun on my face: I can’t not write. Rejection is horrible, but you get over it. You might learn something from it, even if it is that that editor was not on the same page (ha ha). Sometimes this helps to crystalise where you want to go with a project, as it is not in the direction of that person’s suggestion.


  6. PaytlWrite says:

    I’ve been writing since I was a child and have had several close instances, I completely feel for your comment about the notification on the phone which sends your imagination way too high. I may have a folder on email special for all my rejection letters, but this lifestyle has grown me into the person I am today and will continue to get back up and dip the pen in ink. Thanks for the great post!


  7. Rachael Wolff says:

    Great piece and so true! I’m going through it right now. My book is out to publishers and I’m getting the nicest passes… The common theme is I know this book will find the right home…but it’s not here. As a non-fiction writer the social media platform plays a big role, and it is not one I’ve mastered. Thank you for sharing your story with us because it really is an important piece of the puzzle in being a published author. 💜💜💜


  8. The Huntress 915 says:

    I just began a blog, and am an aspiring writer as well. This helped especially from someone who has been in the trenches for a while now. Thank you!


  9. imlovedesigns says:

    I recently heard that Rejection is actually an inherent threat- almost as intense as threat to your life… think of the tribes and communities long ago- if you were cast out, you would literally die… (lack of food/resources/shelter)…. so any kind of rejection can bring up intimate fear and pain…


  10. Moderate Home says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings! I am not a writer, so I don’t fully understand the the work and heart that goes into that. I am a DIY/decor blogger and I have been rejected or ignored many times. You’re right, it’s not the easy days! The truth is, I appreciate my readers who tell me they saved money by trying one of my projects or they found the confidence to try it themselves, more than a website who just wants fast content for their website. That high is always short-lived, anyway. Sometimes, rejection could have really worked out for the best when I see how my work has been used. I appreciate quality over quantity, but have to remind myself of that on the days I want to throw all my work in the trash.


    • hollandrae says:

      It sounds like you’re really reaching people! You’re absolutely right that rejection is part of the process, but the trick is understanding that every rejection puts us closer to success! Thank you so much for reading and your kind words–and all the best on your artistic journey!


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