7 tips on coping with rejection

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Greetings, oh internet. It has been a strange week.

On the one hand, much success in trying to get other people to fund my education. I’ve made a few shortlists for scholarships and awards. I don’t know if that’ll go anywhere. It came as a huge surprise to even have made it this far. So that was lovely, if a bit overwhelming.

Much excitement also for the upcoming Authorview. I was kind of like, “ag, screw it, I’ll email her and see what happens”. And then, bam, I have an international famous person. Her illustration is haaaaarrrd, but her interview itself was quite funny, so I have a lot to work with there.

Running my residence is just giving me near-constant shit. People just need to chill and stop with their nonsense. Whether it is noise, or admin, or bullying, or theft, or masterkey, or washing machine abuse, or meltdowns, or disciplinary hearings to contest two hour fines, or smoking, or leaving mutant hairballs in the showers, or ripping pages out of the guest register, or people claiming that we sold their stuff in a boxroom sale, when I have it on record that they signed their crap out… I am done here. Will someone kindly pay me and let me go home? Thanks. I won’t be back.

sub-Q seems to be on the up. At least, I suddenly have a lot more work to do? We have slush, glorious slush. In addition, I’m supposed to be interviewing an interactive fiction writer, who (charmingly) isn’t responding to email. Excuse me! Excuse me, sir! I do not get paid for this!

In other news, you should definitely submit to this pro-paying publication because we want you. Like, a lot. But not in a desperate way. Come on, it’s $0.09 a word. Dooooooooo it.

Oh God, why can I smell urine outside my window? I live on the third floor! Residence, stop!

*closes window, pretends nothing is happening.*

Onto the actual topic of the day.

To put it simply, the last two weeks have sucked on the fiction front. Like, six rejections in two weeks sucked. I’m not sure why rejections always seem to materialise in ungodly herds, but this is invariably the case for me.

On top of a number of other stressful factors, the near-constant ‘thanks-but-no-thanks’ letters have really begun to sting. Worse is knowing that another two are probably going to smack into my face tomorrow morning. For a opportunity I really, really, really want.

So, to commiserate, I have this wondrous list on “how to not curl up into a ball and cry every time an unfeeling god tells you that your work is shit.”

1. Preparation work.

I am a hypocrite for suggesting this, but try to forget that you have submitted to a publication. Like, write it down, because you need to know, but then let it go, let it go…

(I don’t know that song, but you probably do. And it’s now stuck in your head. My pleasure.)

As I was saying, never take it as given that you’ll be accepted. I have done this on at least two memorable occasions, only to be told “nah”. And one of those occasions marks the only time I’ve ever cried about a rejection. It’s silly. Be humble, expect nothing.

2. Always work on your next creative project while waiting.

Never just have one thing chilling in a slush pile. For starters, that’s a bit of a waste of time. And secondly, if you have another piece in circulation, you can tell yourself: “okay, so Mag A didn’t like the robot story, but there is always that dragon story with Mag B. Maybe that’ll work out.” Which is a much better feeling than the sinking emptiness of having nothing to hope for. I swear it also leads to a vast improvement in your writing ability and level of motivation

3. Resubmit.

Preferably as soon as you get your work back, unless you want to rework it. My advice is to have a sequential list of publications to send the piece, even before it’s rejected. This gives you zero wallowing time; you are zipping it off to the next publication before you can even experience self-doubt

4. Pain is okay.

Yeah, admit that it hurt. Of course it hurt. This stuff is personal in a way that other rejections aren’t. Didn’t get that job in accounting? WELL AT LEAST YOU WEREN’T SELLING YOUR DREAMS. Pain is okay. Depression is not. You can’t afford to be sad about a rejection for more than a day, especially for short fiction. It will lead you to question your writing ability, and not in a “well, this is an important moment of self-discovery” way, but more of an “I am terrible and doomed to oblivion” way. Do not embark on that spiral. Pick yourself up, go for a walk outside, then carry on.

5. Don’t tell everyone where you are submitting.

Because then you will feel undue humiliation when you are rejected. Tell as few people as possible and preferably only the ones who love you and won’t question you afterwards. Contain your excitement. You can easily celebrate if you are successful. You don’t need people doing that false-sympathy “oh, you didn’t make it, maybe next time” shtick.

6. Don’t read too much into rejections.

Like, chances are you are dealing with a form rejection. “Isn’t right for this publication” can just mean, “didn’t float my boat”, but you have no way of knowing that. Other people like to print and save their rejections. I kind of just leave them floating aimlessly in my inbox. They aren’t that important, for the most part.

7. Know that you aren’t alone.

You are not the only one getting rejected for trying really hard. Sometimes, it can help to read other people’s stories of failure. Find a blog. Find a rejection collection. Whatever you want. We are in this together.

Keep fighting.


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