rejection4 Unexpected Benefits of Rejection

by Marg McAlister


1. You Move from Disappointment to Resolve

The first reaction to reading a rejection letter is usually intense disappointment (and often days or weeks of depression). This doesn't last. Sometimes it gives way to anger born of frustration, after which you take a deep breath, get over it and dive into writing again. Often, though, this 'rejection dejection' morphs straight into a firm resolve to fix whatever is wrong and do better next time.

You might think of this as 'trial by fire', or 'learning by doing', or 'earning your stripes'. However you classify the whole unpleasant business of being rejected, the bottom line is that it TESTS you. Do you have what is needed to stick with it? Can you learn from mistakes and feedback and grow as a writer?

Writing is pretty much like any other career: it has its highs and lows. Even for published, contracted writers, this is true. Some days are such fun that you can't believe you're actually getting paid to do it, and some days you are sick to death of sitting at the computer churning out words for a living. If you can accept that rejection is simply part of the process for writers, and something that tests your mettle, then it loses some of its sting. And in the end, that renewed resolve ("I'll show them!") is a good thing.

2. You Realise You're Writing in the Wrong Genre

It happens all the time. You are struck by what seems like a great idea, scribble down a quick outline and start writing. Along the way, one problem after another crops up, but you soldier on. You end up not really enjoying your story or characters, but you've invested so much time you figure you might as well finish it. Then the rejection letter comes. You're down-hearted, because you've invested so much time and energy into the book... but when you're ready to start writing again, you realise that you don't even want to write in that genre any more.

You might be an aspiring romance writer who switches happily to thrillers, or you might shift from mainstream-for-adults to writing for children. Suddenly, it's not a chore to turn up daily at the computer keyboard - ideas are flowing and scenes are mounting up at a great pace. You've made a momentous discovery: you're much happier writing in another genre.

3. You Move on to Something Fresh

Some writers work for years on one book. They get feedback from friends and family, send it away, and it bounces back. Undeterred, they work on it some more, workshop it with their writing group, then send it out again. It comes back with an encouraging note and some suggestions for improvement from an editor. Eureka! They take a couple of months to rewrite it, add new characters, add a subplot, change the ending... and send it back. After six months an apologetic note comes back: 'Sorry, the editorial team feels that it doesn't quite suit our needs... but try us with the next book.'

Sometimes, stories can end up being an unfortunate hybrid of the opinions and suggestions of countless editors, friends, reviewers and critique services. It gets so that not only do you not recognise your book any more, but it feels unwieldy and patched together. Besides, you're bored with it. You decide to move on to something fresh - and your writing gets a new lease of life. You're able to apply all the useful tips on technique and insights from the years of writing, but on a new and exciting story.

4. You Seek Out Support

It's tough to go it alone. Sometimes it takes rejection to make us seek out other writers, or a writing course/workshop that will help. This is a turning point for many writers, particularly those who are fairly new to the game. It's often hard to know what you're doing wrong when you're working solo. It's also much harder to take rejection when you don't know anybody else who's suffered the same fate.

You put your rejection letter aside, and start seeking out writers' groups and organisations. Within months, you find yourself part of an online writers' forum with a lively exchange of tips and ideas. Your writing output soars, and you enjoy it all so much more. The NEXT rejection letter - if there is one - won't be nearly as hard to bear! 

© Marg McAlister


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