A (Writer’s) Life of Rejection and Failure

 Got the writer's rejection blues? Read on for tips!
Got the writer’s rejection blues? Read on for tips!

Don’t take that the wrong way this is just the nature of the beast if you’re embarking on a life as a writer. Really, its just about any career, but few put it as in your face as this one. You’ll find yourself getting rejections from places you pitch to, readers who hate your work, and the inevitable wincing as you look back on your work from years ago.

Have I scared you off yet? Because if you’re still here, that means that you’re okay with that. That’s good. As I write this I’m just a little more than a year into a career writing and I’ve already received my fair share of rejections. I’ve had some that were polite and helpful, and I’ve had some that were obviously the automated response of a computer.

From that, I’ve figured out a secret. A really big important secret if you want to be a writer.

Success as a writer relies upon your ability to pick yourself up after rejection and failure.

I know other writers, and I’m not naming names here, but I’ve talked to and met writers that will be reeling for weeks or months after a rejection. I’ve heard about people get a personal rejection, usually a sign you’re on the right track, and can never return to the story to fix it or learn from it.

That doesn’t help anybody!

There’s a book out there called Fail Fast, Fail Often and its honestly one of the best pieces of advice I think most writers can internalize. Failing, having people tell you “no, not this story” is good for you. Too many writers are trying to find more and more ways to minimize their exposure to rejection, and in the long run it isn’t helping anyone.

There was a recent AMA on Reddit about literary agencies, and in it an agent was quoted that he felt confident that there would always be a need for agents. This wasn’t from some sentiment that “writers can’t do it without us”, but rather because the big publishers don’t have time to wade through the drek that gets submitted.

All of this comes together to show that – yeah, there is a sizable slice of writers out there that want to avoid rejection. We live a weird life. If you write a novel, you’re going to be sitting down by yourself for months if not years polishing and trying to create something. We need to learn from comedians. Their industry is one of instant feedback – if a joke sucks, the audience lets you know.

Rejection sucks when you’re experiencing it. You’ve got all sorts of chemicals and processes in your brain that exist solely to discourage you from experiencing rejection.

 Just keep climbing Heartbreak Hill!
Just keep climbing Heartbreak Hill!

Lots of people who are choosing the independent publishing thing to avoid rejection. But they aren’t – you’re just avoiding personalize rejection from one person, and instead trusting on the crowd to figure it out. And that’s the reason that there are a lot of people out there that are putting out independent works and aren’t making any money.

None of this is to say that independent publishing is the wrong way to go – I’ve tried and am going to continue to do my hand at it. You get a better cut of what sales you make, and that’s pretty darn cool. But every person who doesn’t buy, or leaves a negative review, that’s a rejection that I’m keenly aware I could have probably avoided if I had more eyes on it, more exposure rejection, before I get to there.

If you’re going to make it in this industry, you need to just deal with this. There’s a thick skin you’ve got to develop to be able to make it through. People wanting to avoid rejection are the reason that vanity presses can exist, often giving terrible deals to writers who just want to see their name in print.

So, this post rambles a bit – I get that. It’s because there’s a pretty simple thesis that I feel like so many people are trying to tell up-and-coming writers, and many of those writers are doing everything they can do it to avoid it out of fear. Be like Batman – embrace the fear, and remember. The worst case scenario isn’t that bad.

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