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Dealing with Rejection

Okay, let’s be perfectly clear from the start about this: I’m referring to rejection of your writing submissions, not of your personality or requests for dates or any other nonwriting-related issues. With that disclaimer out of the way, we look today at how one should react when something he or she has written, laboring long and hard over it, and submitted (after carefully studying the markets) for publication gets turned down. What can we learn about this issue from the words of success expert Napoleon Hill?

  1. “It isn’t defeat, but rather your mental attitude toward it, that whips you.”

This goes back to what an earlier post said about the attitude of the writer. It’s all a matter of perspective. Instead of looking at a rejection slip as failure or defeat, view it as simply the revelation of one publication that didn’t want what you wrote right now. You’ve eliminated one potential market, which means you are that much closer to finding the right market and the right readers for your work. And it’s only one editor’s opinion. A different editor with the same publication at a different time might have accepted it. Keep searching until you find that editor.

2. “No man is ever whipped, until he quits–in his own mind. . . . Failure seems to be nature’s plan for preparing us for great responsibilities.”

This statement, too, takes us back to the earlier statement on attitude. It’s all a matter of perspective. View a rejection as bringing you one step closer to finding the right publication and the right editor. Edison was not discouraged when an experiment with a particular filament material failed; he said that it just proved one more material that would not work, bringing him that much closer to finding the material that would.

3. “If the thing you wish to do is right, and you believe in it, go ahead and do it! Put your dream across, and never mind what ‘they’ say if you meet with temporary defeat, for ‘they,’ perhaps, do not know that every failure brings with it the seed of an equivalent success.”

If one of your manuscripts gets rejected, don’t give up on it. If you’ve done your best writing, chosen your markets carefully, and otherwise done “due diligence” in seeking a publisher, send it back out to a second publisher. Or, if necessary, a third or fourth or. . . . Never give up on it. Even if it’s never published, you haven’t wasted time; the experience will have made you a better, wiser writer.

4. “The greatest cure known is work. . . . [Emotions] do not always respond to logic and reason. They do, however, respond to action.”

A rejection slip naturally produces disappointment, discouragement, perhaps even an intense feeling as though you might just quit. Those emotions are real and natural. If you didn’t feel those emotions and instead reacted gleefully to the rejection, something would surely be wrong! But the best way to kill those negative emotions is to work them to death. Seldom is anything as bad as it might at first seem. So immediately send the manuscript out to another editor. I try to follow a 24-hour rule: If I have an article manuscript rejected on Tuesday, I make it a point to find another potential market and submit it to that editor within 24 hours of receiving the rejection notice. Don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs or feeling sorry for yourself. Instead, get busy working on another manuscript. Before you know it, the sting of the earlier rejection will have disappeared, and you’ll be excited about the prospects of an acceptance from the resubmission of the article or the beginning of the new project.

5. “There is a vast difference between failure and temporary defeat. There is no such thing as failure, unless it is accepted as such. . . . When you view adversity as nothing more than a learning experience, your successes in life will far outnumber your failures.”

One rejection does not a failure make. Was Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) a failure? Certainly not, but his first book was rejected by 42 publishers before being accepted by the 43rd. You are a failed writer only if you quit. Don’t give up! Keep plugging away. Even “successful” writers get rejections, just as batting champs fail to get hits about 65-70 percent of the time.

6. “The average person would have quit at the first failure. That’s why there have been many average men and only one Edison. . . . [A]nything worthwhile never comes easily; if it were easy, anyone could do it.”

Writing is hard work. Good writing is even harder. Getting good writing published is harder yet. It is the writer who perseveres, who keeps writing and submitting even after having his or her work rejected time after time who is the real success. Be that person! What matters is that you don’t take the rejection personally; it’s not you but your words that have been rejected. What matters is the you keep writing and keep submitting. What matters is that you, true to your calling, enjoy your work. Put your thoughts on your next project, not on the last one.

7. “Failure is not a disgrace if you have sincerely done your best. . . . [I]f you are satisfied that you’ve done your best, don’t waste time reliving the past. . . . If you consistently do your best, your temporary failures will take care of themselves.”

Ultimately, the judge of the quality of your writing is not an editor somewhere. It’s your own estimation of your work because you know, deep inside your heart, if you’ve done your best. It’s the Judge of the Universe, the God who has given you your writing gift, who makes the ultimate rating of your work. I suspect that there will be writers in heaven whose work on this earth was rejected innumerable times by multiple editors who will hear the most important words of acceptance, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” If you do your writing for Him, rather than for a fallible human, your work is accepted.

Copyright (c) 2018, Dennis L. Peterson

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