Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't Take it Personal

One of the hardest things for the new or beginning writer is getting that first rejection letter. We slave over the computer, putting our hearts into our writing, bundle it up with love and a self addressed stamped envelop then send it out in to the world. And while those precious pages of prose wing their way to some lucky editor’s desk, we eagerly wait by the mailbox for a contract which confirms, yes we are writers. However, all too often that self addressed stamped envelop returns with the dreaded “rejection letter”. Whether on fancy letterhead with a signature, or a bad copy addressed to Dear Contributor and left unsigned, rejection letters just plain hurt.

Rejection letters are part of the “business” of writing. If you send your work out, sooner, rather than later, you will receive a rejection letter in some form or fashion. How we deal with that rejection is up to us.

First, let’s look at what a rejection letter doesn’t mean. It does not mean you are a bad writer and it is not a judgment of your writing. It is a no thank you, at this time your piece is not right for us. Maybe they recently published something similar, or have one like it in the works. Maybe, the editor was in a bad mood that morning and hates cats, which your piece just happened to be about. I once heard rejection letters called Negative Marketing Reports. I think I like that better. It is a no thanks, not now or this doesn’t fit us.

Next, how do we handle these editorial daggers to our self confidence? Personally, I like massive amounts of chocolate. Now, if I could just figure a way to take chocolate off my taxes as a writing expense I’d have it made. Several writers I know prefer physical activity such as chopping firewood or a trip to the batting cage. Another favorite thing is to write the editor a letter expressing your opinion about his knowledge of fine writing. Please, NEVER, EVER, mail this letter though. You may want to give him another chance one day.

The best way to deal with any rejection letter is to immediately send that piece of work or query letter out again. The sooner...the better. A tip I have used, and heard recommended many times is to have a list of at least five places appropriate for that specific piece. When it comes back from the first place, give it a good going over, bundle it back up and send to the second place on the list. If it comes back from there, repeat the process. Patience and persistence is the name of the game.

Sending out a piece of writing we have poured our soul into for the world to examine is frightening. Rejection letters will always sting and hurt. The payoff is seeing our name in print and the thrill that goes with it. Oh, the check is nice too.


Cheryl said...

Rejection really stinks, and I think the fastest rejection letter I ever received was from Good Housekeeping, who took only 1 week to send me a form letter with a single line on it.

As Thomas Edison once said, "I have not failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." I don't allow myself to feel sorry for more than one day before getting back into the swing of things. I know if I try hard enough, something will click.


V.R. Leavitt said...

Very true. If we got so distraught every time we got rejected, we'd NEVER get anywhere. Thanks for the uplifting post.