Rejection is something I’ve written about countless times. I believe it’s part and parcel of being a writer, and although painful, rejection is something we need to make our peace with if we are to continue our writing journeys.
Recently, I was at a local writing event and chatted with the very lovely Josephine Taylor, Associate Editor at Westerly. The topic of rejection came up, as it invariably does if you’re discussing your writing journey with any jot of honesty, and Josephine very kindly gave me permission to post ‘So Your Piece Has Been Rejected’. You can read Josephine’s piece in its entirety on the Westerly website, but here’s an extract which goes to the very bones of rejection and where it fits in any writer’s life:
Have I become a better person by having some of my work declined? Probably. Have I become a better writer? Absolutely!
Receiving a ‘rejection’ turns you back on yourself; it stimulates re-evaluation. The qualities needed to survive this, and to continue to grow as a writer, include a bloody-minded determination and, equally important, a desire to improve yourself as a writer.
It is easy to become focused on the end-point, the product, and natural to want to see your name ‘in print’. What is more difficult is to stay committed to the process. This means putting the writing itself first: being able to admit weaknesses and flaws; being open to improvement; above all, being humble. It means putting in the regular practice day after day, year after year. It means being patient; knowing when the time for a piece of writing has come.
Putting the writing first also means listening to it—knowing when it needs more work; hearing when it is ready. Contradicting slightly my earlier points—and isn’t this creativity business full of contradiction and paradox?—it also means resisting external influences, and staying true to the artistic vision of the work. Every era has a Zeitgeist—or ‘spirit of the times’ (Moore)—and this trend of ideas or beliefs, this cultural mood, has its effect on what readers seek in writing, and what publishers look for in submissions. What I have learned is that the Zeitgeist plays its part in whether a writer’s work will be accepted, but writing consciously to meet that Zeitgeist is not to be recommended. Occasionally, if you’re lucky, your writing will be in accord with the Zeitgeist, but often it won’t. Regardless, I believe it’s important to stay true to your own creative impulse and instincts.
Finally, and this is painful to communicate, being repeatedly ‘rejected’ might mean that you aren’t writing at a standard of publication. If you are having no success in competitions, no submissions accepted, and this continues over a long period of time—only you can know how long ‘long’ is—you might wish to determine if it benefits you to continue writing. One test includes asking for the starkly honest opinion of people who are ‘good’ readers and/or writers. (A nice side-benefit, if the writing is given an overall tick but weaknesses are identified, is correcting writing tics and blind-spots.) On the other hand, if you love writing for its own sake, if the practice of bringing a world and its people to life brings you joy, then, does it matter? Write away!
Looking to read more about rejection? Here are some of my previous posts on coping with rejection: