How to feel good about yourself even when your manuscript is rejected

One of the hardest parts of being a writer is the fact that rejection is part of a writer’s life, moreso than just about any other profession.  (Of course, artists, dancers, actors, etc. might disagree.  For them, keep reading.  Here’s something that will help everyone.)  And unless a writer goes entirely to self-publishing (and even then there is rejection from the number of sales you don’t make), rejection is just part of the job description.

Another rejection slip - Image by Graur Codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No one likes being rejected.  When I first started out as a writer, I got rejection after rejection.  Like a puppy, I never gave up hope.  I would wait for the postman to deliver the mail and eagerly sort through it to find a hopeful acceptance.  Most of the time, there was nothing.  It took a long time to get a response from a publisher or magazine editor.  Then the day came when the publisher’s/editor’s masthead envelope arrived.  With trembling hands, I would open it.  Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time, it was a form rejection.  The other .1% was a personalized rejection or a standard rejection with a personal note scribbled on it from the editor.

The .1% I prized.  It meant that I was getting closer, but I was still missing the brass ring.  For a few moments, I felt crushed, discouraged, of lesser worth.  Then I would think of the manuscript I was working on at the time.  This helped me regain my enthusiasm, and, my light not quite as bright as before, I would go back to my writing again.

And that’s the crux of the matter right there…what rejections do to a writer, actually any person.  As a writer, until we learn to recover from this consistent rejection quickly without losing face, self-worth and enthusiasm, we won’t make it to the halls of glory.

Here’s something to help.  I used to pin this anonymous tip up near my typewriter (and then word processor, and then computer).  Whenever I got a rejection, I read it.  It helped me enormously.

The $20.00 Bill

A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill.  In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?”  Hands started going up.  He said, “I am going to give this to one of you, but first, let me do this.”  He proceeded to crumple the bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?”  Still the hands were up in the air.

“Well,” he continued, “What if I do this?”  He dropped it on the ground, and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe.  He picked it up, now crumpled and dirty.  “Now, who still wants it?”  Still hands went into the air.

“My friends, you all have learned a very valuable lesson,” the speaker said.  “No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it, because it did not decrease in value.  It was still worth 20 dollars.

“Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way.  We feel that we are worthless, but, no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to those who love you and to those who respect you.

“The worth of our lives comes not in what we do, or whom we know, but by who we are.

“You are special, don’t ever forget it!  …  Always count your blessings, not your problems.”

I think that about sums it up, don’t you?

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16 responses to “How to feel good about yourself even when your manuscript is rejected

  1. Beautiful post, Sandra.
    Being able to bounce back from rejection makes any occupation easier.

    If you’re interested, here’s my take on rejection as a writer:
    http://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/the-thrill-of-victory-the-agony-of-defeat/

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    • Thanks, Nancy. Being able to handle rejection is an important part of many careers, especially ones in the arts (oh, and I guess politics too lol).

      I read your post on comparing writing rejections to Olympic hazards. Very interesting way to handle rejection. From all the comments of your readers, it’s effective too 🙂

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  2. Hey, I would never reject you! You’re faboo! Lovely article, Sandra, thanks for the reminder! 🙂

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  3. I love the $20 bill analogy Sandra – in spite of anything that was done to it, that $20 bill still retained it’s worth!
    If we want something badly enough, and are determined, then we will try and try and try again until we succeed. Rejection is hard to take, but we can make it a positive thing and learn from it.

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  4. It’s a little easier to accept when you make yourself stop & realize it’s not personal. Use those words like a mantra: “It’s not personal, it’s not personal…” Because it’s not. It’s business. It doesn’t seem fair that as creative, artistic people we need to learn how to market & play by the rules of their business but the ones that make it, do (so I hear, lol). It’s not the most talented who get there, it’s the most persistent. So never give up 🙂 /fortune cookie OFF.

    And here’s another “rejection” story that always brings tears to my eyes for some reason: http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/get-published-sell-my-work/saving-the-rejects

    /hugs

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    • That remembering it’s not personal is such an important point. And it’s true that it helps make the rejection a little more palatable. However, your second point is a powerhouse. Persistence wins the day – there are so many stories of now-famous authors having their manuscripts rejected dozens of times before being accepted, like J.K. Rowling, L.M. Montgomery, L. Frank Baum, to mention a very few. What finally got each of these prodigious talents published was not their amazing writing abilities but their persistence and belief in themselves.

      I have actually read that story somewhere before. I loved it because of the joy she found in the lollipop rejects and the comparisons she drew. Great inspiration to writers. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Beautiful! underneath it all, no matter what others do to us, we are still infinitely worthwhile!

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  6. Wonderful post, Sandra. I may have to post this one near my pc. Thanks!

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  7. Great post about the importance of persistence, Sandra! It’s better to submit your work and be rejected than to never submit at all!

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  8. Hello Sandra…this article of yours is truly encouraging. Goes on to show that publishing a work needs effort and most importantly patience. I’m dipping my toes into writing short stories but haven’t gotten around adding a satisfying framework to it. Any suggestions on books or articles that might help will be most appreciated. Thanks!

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    • Hey, Zoya, thanks for stopping by. I’m glad your dipping your toes into the fiction writing waters. With your clear style of writing, I bet you will write some great short stories.

      I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking for help in. Do you mean that you wrote your story and now need to add the plot? That would be a different way of doing it, but if it works…:) If you could let me know more definitely where you need help, I would be glad to suggest something for you, or maybe some of the other writers who visit this site have some ideas. However, as Somerset Maugham said, the best way to learn writing is to write. (It is nice to have a little help, though 😉 )

      Like

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