As writers, we’ve been told time and time again that we need to develop thick skins, deal with criticism constructively, persevere in the face of a thousand rejection slips. And we’ve all heard the stories of how many well-known authors were turned down by countless editors, only to later publish a best seller.
But the reality for most of us is this: Success is hard to measure in the world of fiction writing, and it’s up to you to create a realistic measure for yourself. Take a minute to examine your ultimate goals and determine how to stay focused and positive during the difficult process of submitting your writing.
Do you feel you’ll be a failure if you don’t produce the next great American novel, or if you publish only 7 poems instead of the 50 you promised yourself? If your happiness is tied up in reaching certain goals, maybe it’s time for some reevaluation. Sure, Sylvia Plath’s genius was inextricably tied to her despair and depression, but for the most part, a dejected, deflated writer will produce dejected, deflated writing. It’s time to take charge of your happiness so you can take charge of your writing.
Explore your inner voice. This is the voice inside your head, orchestrating your thoughts and progress. If it says, You’re not good enough, how can it not affect your writing? Be kind to yourself. If you’re new to writing, change not good enough to learning the ropes. If you’ve been at it for years and are still hitting a wall, take a good hard look at the critiques and suggestions you’ve received. Take a class, try a new genre, explore writing groups that offer solid advice and constructive criticism. Above all, put aside your ego long enough to really hear what experts say about your writing.
What would make you happy? An angry, pessimistic, irritable writer may hang all his or her hopes for happiness on publication. But chances are that if this writer gets published, he or she will simply become an angry, pessimistic, and irritable author with a publication credit. It’s kind of like winning the lottery—you may suddenly have a million dollars, but the problems in your life are still there: You’re still afraid of spiders, still estranged from your grown children, still suffering from heartburn, and the cat still throws up on the carpet nearly every day. The process of writing should be a joy in itself. Publication is the icing on the cake.
Are you being realistic? Get-rich schemes don’t work, and magical shortcuts to publication don’t exist. Writing takes time to develop, like a good wine develops depth and character with age. This doesn’t mean that you have to be in a nursing home to finally reach your goals, but looking for instant gratification won’t help either. Patience, persistence, constant and well-targeted submissions—these are what will move you toward your publishing goal.
Set yourself up with small, reachable steps, and celebrate the completion of each one. I will work on my synopsis for half an hour. I will get a good night’s sleep so I can work on a poem early in the morning while everyone sleeps. I will let the machine take my calls for the next two hours, and I will eat a healthy lunch for energy. I will identify the problem with my antagonist and fix it. Each step leads to the next, and the path will slowly unfold before you.
At Writer’s Relief we know how difficult the submission process can be for creative writers. For more tips on staying positive and dealing with rejection, check out our E-book, Rejoice in Rejection. Our submission service targets the markets best-suited for your work, and we see rejection slips as positive proof that our writers are moving forward in the publishing industry (our clients also see an above average number of acceptance letters as well!). Since 1994 we’ve been compiling records of literary agents’ and editors’ personal preferences and keeping abreast of changes in the literary market, all to give our clients the best chance for getting their writing published.
I try to stay grounded as I reach for the sky during the submission process. I need to become less timid about it.
I think every writer begins their career / hobby / obsession with words believing they must write the next best selling novel. I know I did and it took 10 years of writing news or business communications while fearing the dreaded rejection letter before I realized I was a moron. Writing is something I do because I must and whether I write a best seller or just a seller, I am still happy doing what I love.
I like where you wrote. “Writing takes time to develop, like a good wine develops depth and character with age.” But I do think reality should come into play for some writers at some point because not everyone can write and wine turns to vinegar eventually.
Let me clarify: if you want or need to write then do so, but do not expect to be published or sell your work. Try as hard as you can and shrug off rejection, but do not expect anything. When you do get published because of your hard work and time, it will be more rewarding since you were not expecting to get published.
It’s tough to keep perspective, especially when you consider the fact that most of your dream publications accept less than 1% of submissions during the year.
The good news is that I gleaned a prompt from this piece: cat vomit.
Rejection is par of the course for anyone who chances their hand at publication. I have come to the conclusion that getting published could be more difficult than threading a camel through the eye of a needle. I am not even talking about that rare debut in the New Yorker or Paris Review. The war for scarce inches of magazine territory is littered with the corpses of many an aspiring, even deserving, writer. My essays and pitches frequently miss the cut, meeting a grisly end at the hands of anonymous gatekeepers and arbiters of taste. If the editor chooses to respond at all, no reason is given other than that my submission “does not suit the mission and balance” of their esteemed publication. No tonic to a mortal wound, the form rejection letter often ends with a humane dismissal encapsulated in the editor’s “best wishes on your attempt to submit it elsewhere.”
One is made to feel like a no-hoper forced into ever greater depths of literary rejection until the piece sinks rock bottom and buried never again to see the light of day. I am here to declare that hope springs eternal for a much rejected writer. That which does not vanquish my spirit only serves to make me stronger. I continue to hone and polish my trove of essays from yesteryear, living in hope that my time in the limelight will come. I steadfastly subscribe to the exhortation that “if you don’t get published the first time, try, try again.” Our time on earth is brief; a literary legacy stokes the dying embers of remembrance.
Editors receive hundreds, if not thousands, of newly hatched creative pieces every day, from which they can but choose a handful. A wide net is cast for that rare gem and there is no shortage of pitches from avid cybercasters on live feeds. The ease and efficiency of email submission theoretically allows contenders to range as far afield as Timbuktu. You would hope that pieces are carefully selected for clarity, topicality, strength of argument and even wit, but I suspect the biases and preferences of editors play a part.
I email feedback as soon as I have formulated a response to an essay whose longevity in the hyperkinetic cyberworld is not likely to outlast the fruit fly’s. With so much to wade through, my hope is that the editor is more receptive earlier in the day and will stop looking further once the quota for feedback is filled. If I feel strongly about an issue, I get in touch with the essayist who ocassionally files my work on their blog if they deem it worthwhile-this circumvents the vagaries of a decision by a section or letters editor. The columnist’s opinion is worth far more than the arbitration of an editor.
Another grievance is that some of my submissions are published anyway without editors telling me. Apart from being denied a timely celebration, I am compelled to self-google to track successes of which I was not aware, at the risk of being accused of narcistically interrogating my online brand. So please let me know if you deem my submission fit to publish, if only to salve the many more stings and arrows of rejection aimed my way.
Keep writing always
Keep faith in your poetry
Listen to silence.