Handling rejection

Sunday, December 16, 2007
I've been trying to break into a magazine for a while now, and they finally liked one of my ideas and wanted to see clips. I picked out two feature stories to share - stories that I've received positive feedback for - and sent those, along with two examples of different types of writing that I'm experienced with.

Then came the rejection. "The clips don't do it." What exactly does that mean?

At first I was upset. I believe I'm a good writer, a strong writer, and I know I'm capable of writing a quality feature for the magazine. I talked with another editor I write for and was reassured that I have the talent.

But the more the situation weighed on my mind, the more questions popped into my head, leaving unanswered questions. Did I send the wrong kind of clips? Do I not possess the voice or tone the magazine desires? No, I didn't send the wrong kind of clips. Clips show what you have accomplished and fit the style of the publication you were writing for. And yes, I do possess the voice, the narrative look of the landscape that can tell a vivid story. Yet, I was still disappointed that I hadn't landed the assignment.

The next day I was reading the August issue of Writer's Digest. And there was the pep talk I needed to hear - an article entitled "Try, Try, Try Again" by Jodi Picoult. Jodi explains her journey through the publishing world and how she experienced rejection early in her career. Two points in the article spoke directly to me:

  • The writers who succeed are the ones who refuse to buckle under the failures that are heaped upon them; who reject the notion that they aren't as mediocre as industry professionals say they are.
  • After landing a book on The New York Times bestseller list, an influential agent from NYC wanted to talk to Jodi. She declined, explaining that she was happy with her current agent and did not plan to switch. Picoult says, "I'm quite sure that this New York City bigwig doesn't remember that she was the very first agent to reject me, but I never forgot."

I refuse to buckle under the failure heaped upon me. I know I am not a mediocre writer. And although this wasn't the first piece I've had rejected, it hurt the most. Why? Because the publication is one I respect and enjoy reading. I know I would be a good fit.

So now what? There are literally thousands of other article ideas and publications I'm ready to tackle. In fact, I have several in the works. And like Picoult says, "That's the loveliest thing about failure. Without it, you'd never know how delicious success tastes."


Anonymous said...

You make some great points. Thanks for the reminder that as long as I believe in myself, and in my work, I'm on the right track.

I know you have your eye on a particular publication. I get it. So do I. But keep publishing in the places that already know and love you -- that's the ego boost that will push you further to keep going for the gusto.

Good luck!

LuAnn Schindler said...


It's funny because I write fairly regularly for another regional publication, and the editor always tells me that when he surveys the membership about the type of stories they would like to see in the magazine, my name is always mentioned. I'll take that as a good sign!

And I've been writing for an area daily newspaper. I wrote a couple stories for them a few years ago and then interruptions got in the way and I stopped. But now that I'm writing full time, I've been pitching ideas to them on a regular basis. In fact, the first story I did for them went out on the AP wire, and the newspaper has yet to say no to a pitch, so I also take that as a good sign!

Chynna said...

(I'm so glad I got my computer working so I could respond to this. LOL)

Annie, this is a great post. Never EVER give up just because one place rejects your idea. Yes, it does hurt initially but all it means is the work isn't right for that mag. Try another...and another until someone says, "OH YEAH!"

If I'd given up after a rejection or two (or 10 LOL), I wouldn't be where I am today. And you know what? I very good friend of mine who has published 8 novels STILL gets rejections. It's all a matter of timing and preference on the editor's part.

Like I learned from Mary Rosenblum: "Rejections are like badges of honor to show our dedication and determination. Wear them with pride as incentive to keep going."


Annette Elton said...

Your post is timely. I was just talking with someone about the difference between a working writer and a writer and I said it was the ability to persevere through rejection and harsh critiques. It doesn't mean they're easy to take but having the umph to continue working despite them is what makes all the difference!

Anonymous said...

I think I used to be pretty thin skinned, but rejection will toughen you up in a jiffy. I agree that working writers have to persevere through a lot. That makes success that much sweeter. With that attitude, you'll definitely make it.

Sue said...

LOL. Long ago, when I began with WOW!, I joked that I'd take all my rejection letters and cut them into paper wings, hoping to soar high above the rejection (or something like that). I don't remember exactly. But I agree with you, totally. Your blog is a positive reminder, and something everyone can use. ;-) Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I have to hop on this wagon myself. Because I have faced a lot of rejection in my writing career. There are so many writers out there trying to break into the children's writing market, it is literally a "dog eat dog" world.

For the longest time, I had kept my box of rejection letters once in a while reviewing them, wondering exactly where I could have gone wrong. Did I not research the agency enough? Did they not provide enough information on their specific needs? Did they just not bother to read what I sent?

Some of the rejections were standard form letters where someone took a pen and simply checked off a box with the answer they wanted to give me. These made me feel so low, it wasn't even funny. To be ranked so low that I was only worth a check mark.

Finally, I got off my butt, and told myself I couldn't dwell on those rejections, that I had to keep trying.

I have to admit, I am still hesitant when it comes to rejection, I am still trying to get work published and will continue to do so, however, I am a lot more selective when it comes to where I send my work.

I never saw myself as a "freelance writer" I always saw myself as just a writer. Someone who loved to sit with pen and paper in hand writing down the latest story idea then letting the story just flow. But, now, there is so much more to it.

Thank you for your insight and helping us all to realize that we will overcome our fears, and we too will some day be accepted for our writing and our abilities in being the bested damned writers we all are and know we can be. :)

Never give up, and know that I too am right there with you and will continue my battle to become a published children's writer. I dream of walking into a library or bookstore and seeing a child sitting on the floor enjoying a story that I have written. (A child other than my own) That would be the best payment ever.

Happy Writing!

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