Okay, I’m going to say right up front that I know how sappy and full of new age clap-trappery that sounds. Just to be clear if somebody gave me a fridge magnet imprinted with those words – I wouldn’t even re-gift it – I would burn it.
But bear with me. I do think we can consciously utilise rejection better to help ease heart ache. We all know how horrible it can be to have your projects rejected, passed on or criticised. And we know that dark mutterings about the powers that be, or the “idiot” judges or “lucky” winners can temporarily soothe that hurt. But stay in that funk too long and all that time spent bitching is really unproductive. Yes, rejection sucks. So use that lame, suckful energy to move forward.
In the very first instance – set a time limit on the shouting, weeping and pillow punching. Indulge your initial reaction then stop. It might be a day, it might be a week – who cares? Set your limit and then get on with using your anger/annoyance productively.
Here are some useful ways you can make rejection work for you AND improve your writing:
- Consider that rejection is just part of the deal when you’re a writer. You’re keeping good company with a very, very long list of amazing people who have had their work rejected.
- Accept that rejection is rarely personal. It’s hard to separate yourself from your art however – here’s another truth – judging, appraising or selecting is enormously subjective – one selection panel’s reject can easily be another panel’s favourite. Very often luck and timing come into play so let the “no” fire you up for next time.
- Immediately look for other opportunities. Where else could you send it as is? Send it and get on with something else.
- Ask yourself if it’s worth overhauling the project – if so – put it away and get it out in 3 months and rework it. All that work is already done – and you’ll come to it with fresh eyes.
- Investigate. Test the fundamental idea out amongst your peers either online or in person – and be open to what you discover. Maybe it wasn’t quite right, maybe it was – find out.
- Be brave enough to seek critical feedback. If getting feedback isn’t logistically feasible e.g. it’s a contested situation and feedback isn’t part of the deal – then get it elsewhere. Seek out someone professional or more experienced than you who has no vested interest in praising you. Ask them/pay them/bribe them to tell you where they think you might have gone wrong. This feedback may well improve your craft even if you don’t want to hear it.
- Ask yourself what you could have done better. This is hard – but your subconscious probably knows – so sleep on it or spend 15 minutes freewriting about it and see what pops up. Then do something to upskill in that area.
- Be defiant. Start another project immediately.
Doesn’t that feel better already?