3 Ways to Soften Rejection

Thursday, February 01, 2024


Last time I blogged here on the Muffin, I wrote about querying. In 2023, I made a push to get more of my work out into the world. I want to renew this goal for 2024, but the problem with querying more is that you get more rejections. 

Some rejections I shrug off. I may pop into my database and see how many more agents have my proposal or jot myself a note to send out another batch of queries. But this isn’t always the case. Some rejections flatten me. 

This week I was talking to one of the students. The fear of potential rejection stops her from polishing a piece to the point that she can send it out. We discussed some of the ways she can deal with rejection because rejections are part of life. 

At various points in my writing life, I’ve dealt with rejection in different ways. Here are three of them.

The Rejection Jar 

The rejection jar.
When I was a new writer, a friend and I each created a rejection jar. Mine was a pottery jar with dozens of slips of paper. Get a rejection, draw a slip of paper, and do what it says. A slip might say “go to a movie” or “visit a gallery.” 

This worked for a long time until I started writing regularly for one editor. I was submitting very little to anyone else, so I didn’t need my jar. 

Set a Goal 

When I started sending out my work again, I set a goal. Earn 5 rejection letters a month. Don’t ask. I don’t even remember where I heard of this. The idea is that each rejection is a step towards your goal. It isn’t a failure, it’s progress. 

And, again, it worked until I landed a cozy relationship with another editor who monopolized my writing time. I’m not complaining, but I wasn’t submitting to anyone else. There went that goal! 

Celebrating Rejection 

One bead per rejection.
At this point in my writing life, I work for one packager and one publisher on a regular basis. But I want an agent and I want to branch out. Thus, the submissions and the rejections. 

This time around my rejection solution came from Andrea Askowitz of Writing Class Radio. Episode 170 discusses how she has been rejected over 643 times. To mark these rejections, she drops a stone into a bowl in her backyard. When she sees the stones, she sees how much work she has put into publishing her writing. 

 The day I decided to do something similar St. Louis was iced in so I needed an indoor solution. I found a variety of beads the color of sea glass. Then I found a jar. I dropped in two beads for my two 2024 rejections. 

It was underwhelming. But wait! Askowitz didn’t start only with recent rejections. For years, I’ve kept a database of my submissions. I searched for the word rejection. 38. Subtract the two beads already in the jar and add 36 more. Hold on! Many publishers and agents say “no response means no.” I skimmed my submissions and found 52 silent rejections. That looked a lot better than 2 or even 38. 

My next thought surprised me. “I better get going so I can add to the jar.” The next morning, I queried two more agents. Tomorrow I’m querying a journal. 

There is no right answer for how to get yourself through rejection. There is only what works for you right now. Take a suggestion from another writer, maybe even from me, and then make it your own. 

How do you keep the blues at bay when you get a rejection? 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of 40 books for young readers.  
  • To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.  
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She is also the instructor for 3 WOW classes which begin again on February 5, 2024. 
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Angela Mackintosh said...

Sue ~ you hit on something amazing here by using the beads in a jar. The size and combo is perfect. It looks way too bare with a couple of beads in there, so the natural instinct is to fill it up! What a brilliant idea. :)

If I receive a good rejection--one where the editors share feedback or say something nice--I'll make it a point to submit a new piece to the journal again. The rest go into a folder. I really like your bead idea though! I might need a bigger jar though since I've gotten up to 15 rejections for one piece. What's your reward for filling the jar?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

You should definitely submit something new to a journal that sends you a positive rejection! Feedback is so rare.

I am noodling over what to do when I fill the jar. Make a bracelet with the beads to wear in my author photo? No clue!

Kelly Sgroi said...

I love how you've found such a positive here. The jar will look the prettiest when it's full, so you'll just have to keep sending out those queries!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Amen! All it takes is some color and sparkle to get me moving.

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