Writing, Rejection, and What To Do Next

I loved Cristian Mihai’s post on famous rejection letters that I read some time ago, and it prompted me to look up some of the rejection letters that I’ve received over the years. Some were form letters, some more personal, but they were rejections all the same:

Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Falling Over Rejects Blocks by Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

“Heartfelt, but we don’t think it would draw enough interest from our readers.”

“We have already made commitments in this general subject area.”

“We enjoyed reading your article, but it doesn’t meet our current editorial needs.”

“We found the approach to be an interesting one. However, its novelty is also its risk.”

“We are sorry that we do not see a place for your proposed book in our publishing program, and we regret that time does not permit a more detailed explanation of our decision.”

I didn’t paper my walls with my rejection letters as some writers have done. And I didn’t save them hoping they would become famous some day. As rejection letters go, they’re really rather ordinary. But I didn’t throw them away either.

Instead, I simply tucked them away in a folder as a record of my writing submissions, and kept going.

With my first book proposal, I collected seven rejection letters before it was finally accepted for publication.

Some of the articles I wrote were rejected repeatedly and never published, and I eventually stopped sending them out and turned to writing something else.

That might sound discouraging–and it was–but what I learned is that one of the secrets to writing and publishing is simply to keep going. Got a rejection letter? Keep going. Tired of revising? Keep going. Struggling with writer’s block? Keep going.

  • That doesn’t mean to keep doing the same thing. Some projects need to be shelved or substantially revised. Some may work better for traditional book publishing or indie publishing or blogging.
  • That doesn’t mean never taking a break. Sometimes a break is exactly what I need–to come back to my writing with fresh eyes, to clarify my direction, to enjoy life beyond my computer screen.

But in the face of rejection, instead of giving up completely, I’m glad I learned to persevere. Rejection is normal. Even great writers have been rejected.

So keep going.

It’s ok to feel bad about rejection, but don’t dwell there permanently–is there something you can learn from it? I received one rejection note (too short even to be a letter) that said “this is an awkward length (we prefer 1200-1500 words), and we chose a piece with more how-to info.” That rejection helped to shape my next piece.

Keep going.

Sometimes it’s not the actual rejection, but the fear of rejection that makes writing difficult. That’s normal too. After all, writing means risking. But we can feel the fear and do it anyway, as Susan Jeffers called her now classic book. I’ve found that a helpful thought for writing and for life, so now I’m getting on with the rest of my day, and

Going. . . .



Categories: Writing

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8 replies

  1. Working on another project? :-)

    • Still working on my series of sermons for CSS Publishing (due August 1), a Sacred Pauses group leader’s guide (should be finished in July sometime), and trying to keep up with blogging, but there’s always more simmering in the background :-)

  2. Reminds me of the Christian life, and the many biblical reminders to persevere, endure, finish the race, etc. And thanks for the encouraging thoughts on writing.

    • Yes, Laura, I love that connection. I was especially thinking of Romans 5:4 where “endurance produces character, and character produces hope”–although there endurance means enduring suffering. But whether perseverance is through suffering or through more mundane challenges of life like writing, we have a hope that “does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Romans 5:5).

  3. I have come to see many rejections as blessings which have prompted me to prune my work to become more fruitful.

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