How to Deal with Rejection 101



The following email exchange really happened. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.



Me to my client:

Hey <Nameless Client>,
FYI, <Editor 1> at Big Publishing House and <Editor 2> at Another Big Publishing House both passed. 😦

My client to me:

I feeeeel like a real writer now!! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂

Me to my client:

You feel like a real writer because I just told you about two rejections?! You’re a weirdo. 🙂

My client back to me:

Well, you know…it’s humbling and all. I’m pumped to work on kicking my writing up a notch. I’m sort of anticipating many “passes” so I want to get something new (and hopefully even better) done so that if  <INSERT NAME OF FABULOUS MANUSCRIPT>  isn’t the one, I won’t take 7 years getting something else out.

So, what can we learn from this, besides that we are both stupid with smileys? First of all, holy shit, right?! I mean, what a great attitude! Part of the business of being a writer is expecting and dealing with rejection. Welcoming rejection though, is a whole other ball of wax. It’s ‘kicking up a notch’ what rejection means, or rather, doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean you don’t ever expect to get published because your current manuscript is getting passes. It doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. It doesn’t mean you suck. It just doesn’t mean any of that. This client took a pass as acknowledgment that she’s finally “arrived.” She welcomed getting rejected because it’s part of being a real writer. Rather than being bummed out, she took it as a call to action to take on writing something even better the next time. Wow. I’d probably just cry or something. One of the greatest things about having the privilege of working with my clients is that I have the opportunity to be inspired by these creative people, not only in the area of writing, but also in the area of being a great human on the planet.


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15 responses to “How to Deal with Rejection 101

  1. Samir

    Hilarious! Misguided… but hilarious.

  2. Great post.

    I’ll bet your client didn’t develop that positive attitude overnight. Recently, I looked at some of my older rejections and marveled that I could have been bummed out about them when I really deserved so much worse. It takes ages to learn how to appreciate rejections, and that it’s actually a step up to get rejections from editors who’ve actually read your writing.

  3. Wow. What special potion is that lucky client of yours drinking? I want me some! What a great reminder that so much of how we perceive life and artistic gratification is all in the noggin. I bet their writing doesn’t need to be kicked anywhere, bet it’s stellar. Sounds like they just need to keep writing and keep that fabulous, redonkulously healthy attitude alive.

  4. that’s pretty remarkable after taking TWO rejections on the chin in one blow. i would’ve at least staggered a bit before shaking them off. i’m getting better at seeing rejections for what they are, but obviously i’m not as zen as your client. this grasshopper has a bit more to learn.thanks so much for sharing!

  5. A truly excellent way to approach feedback. Take what you need and move on. Great post.

  6. Pamela

    My agent sent me a batch of rejections from publishers and I felt the same way — “Wow! I’m legit. I am officially a writer now. I’ve been *rejected* and that’s part of the whole *experience*.” If nothing pans out with this book, or with the next one, I can still say I peaked when I landed my dream agent in a matter of minutes rather than having to wait through months and stacks of queries. The LUCK.

  7. What a fantastic way of looking at it! Your client has a great head on her (or his) shoulders. 🙂

  8. Susan

    Fantastic! An inspiration for many. Please thank him/her for me for being so classy.

  9. Kay

    Thank you so much sharing this. It’s inspiration for the day!

  10. Debra Lynn Lazar

    Fantastic post. It’s easy to get mildly (?!) depressed over a rejection – easy and useless. It’s more difficult, but infinitely more useful, to view rejection as one more step to achieving your dreams. (insert smiley face: 🙂 )

  11. Emily

    Ha! I love this post so much. It’s certainly an attitude to aspire to. I’m more of the candy-eating, long-walk-taking, under-the-breath-swearing type. But damn — it’s inspiring to know that this level of well adjustedness is technically doable.

  12. This is great! I have just given myself a pat on the back for bouncing back from a rejection on Wednesday, it took less than a day this time. Woo hoo. And a part of me did think well at least they read it and didn’t laugh in my face – in fact they liked the writing it’s just that this one wasn’t for them. BUT this is the next step on. I am going to revise my view of rejections along your client’s lines immediately!!

    • Great post. Every rejection I get, and not from editors since I haven’t found the agent yet! but from queries and submissions for mags, I have an instant when I want to throw in the towel, then grumble about it all being subjective and “she just doesn’t get what I’m saying” to realizing, “hey, she/he is right.” When the rejection comes with some constructive criticism it does make me go and improve the piece. It makes me want to work harder, like your client. It just takes a few more minutes for that to happen. And your suggestions sent me back to chapter one which I was never totally comfortable with – and now I am! I made some changes, started the novel in a different spot, as you suggested, and feel much more confident about it now. Rejections are good things – we just don’t want to get too many!