You pour your heart and soul into a project, slaving away at the details in order to make it perfect, only to be told no.
Rejection is part of my daily life as a writer. I wish I could say that rejection gets easier, but the sting is just as strong every time.
But the news is not all bad! Throughout my career, I’ve developed tools and ways of thinking to help me get out of bed every day in the face of rejection.
Use Each Rejection as a Learning Experience
When I took on my editorial internship in college, I learned the true meaning of terror when my Editor in Chief would sit at my desk with a piece of my writing in his hand and ask me, “Why am I here?” I knew that what would follow would be a free-for-all critique on my writing and everything that I had done wrong.
As a defense mechanism, I dug in my heels and mentally dismissed his notes, telling myself that my writing was fine and he was being mean.
This attitude was good for no one. When I released my ego and started listening to what he said with an ear open for learning, my writing improved drastically.
I can still hear his harsh but necessary notes whenever I sit down to write.
Know what you did wrong and fix it for next time.
Develop the skills to understand when you’ve been rejected over difference of opinion and style and when your work just isn’t quite what it needs to be.
There is nothing wrong with defending your work, but before you do, take a good internal look and see if your defense is valid or if you let your ego get in the way of a lesson.
Critiques and rejections come in all shapes and sizes; some are gentle and some make you want to start a fight.
Don’t take it personally. Sometimes, the harshest critiques can be the most beneficial to your work.
Remember Your Goals and Always Move Toward Them
I want to be a writer. This has been my answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” since I can remember.
As a child, this simple answer sufficed. In college, it was met with a follow up: How will you make a career out of it?
I met this with my typical stubbornness and ego, offended that they would even need to ask the question. There are so many jobs available for writers.
How could I not make a career out of it? Once I got off of my high horse, I realized that there could be millions of jobs for writers out there, but it wouldn’t matter until I answered that question and figured out what my career in writing would look like.
While perseverance is key to success, it’s almost impossible to persevere if you don’t know what you’re persevering toward.
You want to be a writer. Great.
- What do you want to write?
- Who do you want to write for?
- What do you want to write?
Set concrete goals and put them in a calendar. Know where you want to be next week, next month, next year. Set your clear path.
It’s Okay to Fall Down. Remember to Get Back Up.
So, you’ve set your concrete goals and you’re marching confidently down your path. Rejections may come your way, but you still have your goals in sight, and things feel good.
Then life smashes a giant boulder right in your way. Now what?
Don’t get discouraged if your path strays a little. The path to success is not a straight one. It’s more like a field with a variety of trails, some well-traveled and some that you need to forge yourself.
Revisit your goals and change them if you need to. Then continue on around that boulder.
In theory, this piece of advice is easy. In reality, it takes a great deal of mental fortitude.
When I wake up in the morning and read that email —”We thank you for your interest in writing for us, however…” — I want to roll over and sleep for the rest of the day. My stomach knots, my mind flashes to the thought that I will never be a writer, and the day feels too big to handle.
But then I get my ass out of bed. I take my shower. I have my coffee. And I work. Most of the time.
Some days, I get my ass out of bed, take my shower, and put my ass right back into bed. And that’s okay, too. When rejection is a regular part of your business, some days wear on you.
You must take care of yourself, and if that means eating ice cream and having a day of rest, then indulge yourself with no regrets. But only take that one day. The next day you’d better have your ass back at your desk working fervently toward your goals.
It’s Not a Failure. It’s an Opportunity
I struggle with mild anxiety. During bad bouts, I find myself saying the evilest things to myself. When I catch myself in this bullying act, I find ways to change the negative words into motivating ones.
I’m not a failure. I’m a work in progress.
My writing doesn’t suck. I need to work on X, Y, and Z. This mental exercise frames my negative thoughts in a way that turns them into something I can work toward and strive to be.
As William Zinsser, noted nonfiction writer, said, “No one becomes Tom Wolfe overnight. Not even Tom Wolfe.”
Just because I’m not my greatest self now doesn’t mean I won’t be someday.
Words are so important when we’re talking to ourselves. When we face rejection, it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole of “I’m not good enough.”
Don’t let yourself do that. The rejection is not a failure. It’s an opportunity to learn.
The job you didn’t get that you wanted so badly is not your big break that you lost. It’s beneficial interview practice that will help you land your real big break. You are not terrible at what you do. You are Tom Wolfe before he became Tom Wolfe.
Facing rejection is hard. You’ll have days where you’ll cry, you’ll stay in bed all day, you’ll want to give up. That’s okay.
What’s not okay is if it wears on you so much that you consistently find it hard to get out of bed, you have strong feelings of hate toward yourself, or it starts majorly affecting your mentality when taking on daily life tasks.
If you find yourself struggling, surround yourself with others who are in the same business as you are. Find a support group.
Take on a mentor you can talk to. Your friends and family are great sources of support, but there may be aspects of your business that they can’t empathize with. Find those who can.
If it feels more serious, talk to a counselor.
Setting your own path and becoming your own boss is a heavy task that can bring up issues you never had to deal with before.
Never be afraid to talk to a professional who can help you develop your own tools for positive thinking and loving yourself so that you can accomplish your dreams.
Being an entrepreneur is exciting, badass, and incredibly difficult. Keep marching on in the face of rejection.
Remember that rejection is something that we all deal with, and it’s okay if it knocks you on your butt every once in a while.
Motivation is something that you have to consciously choose every day.
Make that choice, and you will find yourself where you want to be.