It’s a challenge every writer knows all too well: Getting the dreaded rejection letter in the mail. Almost everyone who has crafted a poem, short story, a novel, or even an op-ed has faced rejection of at least one piece of writing. When you get the rejection letter or email, it can feel like a personal rejection, especially if the story you are telling is particularly intimate or close to your heart.
After all, so many of us write because of the things we care about most. For me, it was the love of my son Christopher and facing down all of the barriers to his full inclusion in society that helped me to find my voice as the Linda Smith you know today as a motivational speaker, disability advocate, and nonprofit fundraiser. Getting a rejection can feel like a rebuff to everything you care about, but there are ways to move forward and turn a negative into a positive experience to help you learn and grow.
Let Yourself Grieve
Putting a piece of writing out there in the world can feel like you sending out some form of a child, your most beloved expression of yourself, and a being of its own at the same time. When you get a rejection letter, you may feel sad, upset, jealous, or frustrated. It is okay to let yourself grieve. You don’t need to paper on a happy face right away. Vent to your loved ones, go for a run, or binge Netflix: Take the time you need to recover from the blow so that you can plan for your next steps.
Take the Learning Experience
It can be incredibly difficult, but there can be valuable learning experiences to take from a rejection. You may learn that a particular agent or publisher isn’t interested in a specific type of material. You may review your work to think about what you can do better next time, or share it with a critique group for more thoughts on how it can be improved. You may take encouragement to pursue a wider list of outlets for your work. There are always lessons to be learned from rejection. No one judges a writer on your rejection letters – what matters is how you move forward.
Writing often involves putting huge amounts of ourselves on paper, and it is important to practice self-care throughout the process. You may write in between shifts at your job, classes at school, or caring for your children. Make sure to take the time and space that you need to foster your creative expression, whether that is finding alone time, exploring nature, or seeking professional support for mental health. Caring for yourself can help you recover from rejection and start fresh.
The path to becoming a writer, advocate, or motivational speaker will always be marked by rejection, but it doesn’t have to keep you down. With your inner voice and strength of vision, you can move forward to getting your words the audience they deserve.