You didn’t hear back from the agent. Perhaps the editor rejected you. You may be asking, “What the heck?” Firstly, congratulations on putting yourself out there.
Now, here’s something to take on: Look beyond the anger, the embarrassment or the frustration. What is there for you? Consider that a rejection or a lack of response is a gift. It gets you in touch with what you fear, which helps you build the muscle of courage.
Facts and Interpretations
Let’s look at what rejection actually is.
One way to look at rejection is that your work wasn’t accepted. That’s a fact. The second is rejection meaning something about you. The monologue in your head may sound like, “I’m not good enough.” How likely are you to keep writing and querying if you come from a dis-empowering context? Here’s what to do when you start beating up on yourself:
1. Declare a breakdown. Write down the issue that’s bothering you.
2. Write down all the things that are upsetting you besides being rejected that day. Your dog pooped on the carpet, the mail arrived late and your shoe needs cobbling. Clear all that junk out of your head. Distinguish the judgments you have about yourself or others based on each of the things you list. Are those judgments facts or interpretations? If they’re interpretations (most things that upset us usually are our own judgments, not the actual events), cross them out and move on to the next step.
3. Now write down the facts of what you’re upset about. This step will clarify what happened versus how you feel.
4. Now, ask yourself what you’re committed to. Do you want to be the first-ever writer of dog-themed mysteries for tweens? Declare it! Your feelings change from second to second and really can’t be trusted. Your commitment, however, is something you’ll work toward no matter how you feel. You will write when you’re too tired or feeling lazy. Consider that your commitment has to be a large enough vision that it overcomes your feelings, which are temporary sensations.
5. What action steps will you take to make your declaration happen? Write down your goal. What do you want to create by when? Then work backwards, creating milestones and rewards for yourself, each step of the way. Your plan may change over time. No need to beat up on yourself over that. Just re-tool and keep it moving.
6. What are you responsible for in this experience? Write that down. Certainly, there are things out of your control. And then there are things you could control, like the quality of a draft, the amount of hours you put into it, and the way you took care of yourself in order to produce good work. This part of the exercise is hard because humans love to blame others. Once you take credit for how things went, you’ll gain elevation on the experience AND you’ll be able to see more (perhaps, better) options. Remember: When you blame someone else, you give up power.
7. What gold did this experience provide you? It may very well be that your draft wasn’t ready for the world. Or the rejection may be a lesson in resilience. Declare what the experience gave you. This is like an exercise in gratitude. When you see the gold in a situation, you may actually be thankful that you were rejected.
Facing Fear to Build Resilience
Now back to getting in touch with what you fear. A lot of what many of us do is act in ways that protect ourselves from experiencing our fears. Sometimes, what we’re avoiding is so scary, we bury it deep down. Would you consider that in doing so, we’re really avoiding ourselves? Yet, in not facing fear, we create a far more volatile relationship with it.
That’s why rejection usually hurts so much and why many people avoid taking risks.
So instead of avoiding the ickiness, practice being with fear in small, safer ways. When you begin flexing and building that muscle of courage, that next rejection letter won’t stick to you.
This is the second article in a series about dealing with rejection as a writer. Read the first article here .
Julie Varughese is a life coach and former journalist. She is at work on her first fictional series and on a documentary film on her grandmother. She takes it as a practice. Check out her website: www.julievarughese.com