Dear Writer, How Many Times Have You Been Rejected This Year?
I’ve known Damyanti for several years now. She is the most generous, compassionate and supportive person I have met online. She comes across as a warm and intelligent woman with inner strength. If I were to describe her in one word, it’ll be… Inspiring! She writes about Writing, Social Justice, Travel, and Reading on her blog. Today she is sharing about dealing with rejections in the life of a writer. Over to you, Damyanti…
Rejections, when raw, are the worst thing. I should know, because I got rejected this morning–for a grant I’d worked very hard to get, for an organisation I adore. The lack of this grant might mean the closing down of a school that was built at the site of a reclaimed dump yard more than a decade ago. It is now a vibrant, colourful place that might shut down. Reason? Rejection.
At the moment, it feels terrible. Like there’s no worse thing. Over the years though, I’ve come to handle rejection. make friends with it even. As a writer whose stories have been published at various venues, who helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine and is now a Pitchwars mentor, I’m acquainted with rejection from both sides–I receive them, and I send them.
The devastation I’m feeling right now is part of the process. Depending on how bad I feel, I get out a tub of ice-cream, and go to work. You might be tempted to stop reading, right here. I’ll urge you to go on, because we all face rejection, but not all of us call it a friend.
Here’s how to deal with rejection:
1. Take it on the chin
There’s no hiding from rejection. You wanted something: a publication, an agent, a review, a litfest, and you’re not getting it. We may not be toddlers any more but not getting what we want hurts, especially if we’ve been wanting it for a number of years. But the first part is to try and take it in–accept that you have been rejected. Sounds funny? On to my next point.
2. Go through the 5 stages
The very first reaction to rejection is denial. You want to check the list or the email again. Maybe they made a mistake. This mirrors the first stage of grief. To cope with grief, you must move through the stages of grief : Denial and isolation; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance.
While dealing with rejection, Denial and Anger form my ice-cream-binging phase. If I’m through that, I try and bargain, with myself, with the Universe. None of that works, so there’s of course, crushing sadness. Then, acceptance. Over the years of submitting to magazines, I’ve these stages down pat. No matter how many times you get rejected, it stings. How much it stings, for how long, and how it affects your writing, is completely up to you. The faster you move through the five stages, the easier it is for you, and your writing career.
3. You’ve accepted the rejection, then what?
Ironical as it sounds, the acceptance of a rejection is the most useful step. Once you’ve made peace with the fact that you’ve been rejected, you can move on–and try again.
Usually, with a short story, I go in a tier-wise fashion. I target as high a tier as I dare, and keep moving below as each tier rejects the story.
You can make rejection into a process, and a game in order to take the sting out of it:
a. 100-rejections-a-year challenge–This is a challenge I used to do each year when submitting short stories and flash fiction. The acceptance rates at most good magazines is about 2.5 per cent or lower. If you ratchet up 100 rejections chances are you’re submitting enough to get a piece or two accepted.
b. Resubmit rejections–If you get a straightforward form rejection a few times, look at your story again. If you get tiered rejections (e.g. we like this, but…) then keep submitting till you find the right home for your story. Writers often find homes for stories that have been rejected upwards of 50 times.
c. Excel sheets–I use/d an excel sheet where I noted down where I have subbed a story, and when, and then forgot about it. But it is always nice to know where your story is at in case you decide to send it to places that do not accept multiple submissions. You also want to avoid sending a rejected piece to the same venue twice. My practice was: for every tiered rejection, I sent out the piece to a few venues the same day.
4. Rejections are not personal
Everyone knows this. Ask any writer their honest answer though, and they’ll tell you that it feels very personal. Like the one who rejected your work rejected you. Ever since I started editing for the Forge Literary Magazine (It’s a good venue. Send in your best stuff!), I’ve realised just how much thought and effort goes into the selection of a piece. Even when rejecting a piece, we try and give feedback if we have the bandwidth, or a piece particularly moves us. But sometimes it is just down to subjective taste, or what else we have on the editorial table that month. We do not enjoy rejecting writing–we are all writers ourselves, and know the bitterness of rejection only too well.
So, rejection. It is good news. A friend you need to hold by the hand. Embrace.
If you’re getting rejected a lot it simply means you’re writing a lot and submitting a lot. If you keep writing, chances are you’ll get published, sooner than later. Most successful writers owe it as much to their perseverance as talent–I’ve seen way too many talented writers give in to the sadness of rejection and lose the spirit to write.
If you don’t write and don’t submit, you’ll not be published in the traditional format. It is that simple. Yes, you can self-publish, but the rejection there can be even more brutal–because readers can be as generous with their dislike, as they can be with their love. Best take rejection as a part of the process, a stepping stone. If you’ve been rejected, you know that there are that many less venues to knock at, and you’re that much closer to finding a home for your work.
I’ve finished that tub of ice-cream now, and as I wrote this post, I took breaks to find an even bigger grant someplace else. I have a list now, and will be trying harder.
How many times have you been rejected this year? What does rejection feel like to you? What’s your most rejected work that has been published?
Author Bio: Damyanti Biswas lives in Singapore, and works with Delhi’s underprivileged children as part of Project Why, a charity that promotes education and social enhancement in underprivileged communities. Her short stories have been published in magazines in the US, UK, and Asia, and she helps edit the Forge Literary Magazine. You can find her on her blog and twitter.
All the author proceeds will go to Project WHY and Stop Acid Attacks.
Book links: Outside India: https://buff.ly/2LSv3vw