What's Your Rejection Ritual?


It's happened again. I was minding my own business, thinking of myself as a writer, keeping to deadlines and then a rejection letter came in an email. I keep track of where I send pieces but sometimes I forget that something of mine is out floating around in the literary universe. When a rejection email arrives out of the blue it feels like my head has been plunged in cold water. I've been writing and submitting long enough to know that rejection is part of the writing process. A very big part of the process. It's just that I realized that I don't have a rejection ritual yet. Do you?

For me, rituals are part of my creating process. There's the way that I sit down with tea or when I turn on the computer or the self-affirming words that I say when I start a piece. I tend to stock up on rituals, go to routines for different aspects of the creative life. But, I haven't developed one for dealing with rejections. I think I should.

I started thumbing through my writing books-all of which talk about the inevitability of rejection-and was surprised to find that few gave concrete advice or guidance about how to take care of yourself when you get a rejection letter. Most just say that you should immediately write a new query letter and send the manuscript back out--very perfunctory.

If you don't have Carolyn See's Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, you should. It’s laugh out loud funny, poignant and she makes a lot of analogies about sex, relationships and the writing process. Her take on rejection is that one should write a handwritten thank you note, to the editor, immediately after receiving a rejection. She swears that writing is a type of "spiritual aikido" and helps one stay sane. She also tells a great story about landing a writing assignment after being rejected by an editor over many years. He knew her well through all those nice notes she had sent back to him and gave her work!

I'm in an online writing course with creativity guru SARK (author of many books including Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It). I asked her and the other participants about dealing with rejection. SARK suggested that after getting rejected you write an email *to yourself*  from them (whoever has done the rejecting) that you would LIKE to receive.  She also liked the idea of sending a nice thank you note—by email—to the editor or agent. She also reminded me of her quote: "If you’re not getting rejected, it means you're not reaching far enough."

I like both See's and SARK's encouragement to reroute what feels like negative energy back out to the literary universe for transmutation. I can see myself sending a nice email back to the editor thanking them for reading my piece and that I'll submit again. I'm also intrigued by the idea of sending myself the email I would have really liked to receive.

My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of the new short story collection Accidental Birds), has encouraged her students to think about rejection as a process. She said that we should all strive for 100 rejections letters; 100 rejection letters is part of developing our chops as writers. When I first heard this, I frankly thought that she was a bit insane and also somewhat smugly thought that I was already up to a 100 rejection letters. As it turns out, I'm only about half way there! This sobered me up and got me back to work. Next time I see her, I'm going to ask what to do when I get to 100? Maybe throw a party?

I'm curious fellow She Writers, do you have a rejection ritual that helps you? Is it fun and light or dark and melodramatic? Do you keep the rejection letters in a special file or immediately throw them away? How do you navigate the world of rejection?

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  • Dera R Williams Writing

    Yes, rejection can be a hard thing. I was rejected in June for a writing grant. I didn't get past the first stage. The grantee said she knew her board well enough to know they wouldn't fund it. It had me going in circles and I realized that my story is "dark" and it was obviously not a good fit. So, I keep trucking along. :-)

  • Bridget Straub

    Rejection is really only the opinion of one person and I remind myself that one rejection should hold no more weight than that of the people who have read my material and loved it. Of course it stings, but I tell myself to turn the page and try again.