Today’s guest post is by Shana Scott.
There are a lot of articles about dealing with the constant rejection that comes not only with creative writing but also freelancing, and they offer good advice, but rarely do they discuss coming to terms with not being ready to deal with it.
All the good advice in the world doesn’t matter if the writer isn’t ready, and I wish someone would have said to me, “It’s okay you’re not ready now. You’ll get there in your own time.”
When you’re not ready
Let me say that now: It’s okay! If you stare at that submission form but can’t send anything out for an entire year, that’s okay! If you tell yourself over and over that they won’t want it—so you don’t send it—that’s okay! If that form rejection letter just ripped your heart out, stomped on it, and made you feel like nothing you write can possibly be worth anything, that’s okay!
It’s okay, because one day you won’t feel that way. Whether you are able to face that a few months down the road or in a decade, you’ll get there. Don’t feel like you’ve done something wrong by not being braver or more resilient or more stoic in the face of rejection. Rejection letters suck!
Not being able to handle rejection doesn’t mean you don’t care about your work or don’t believe it’s worth reading or that you want to be published any less than those who send their work out every week. All it means is you’re not ready yet. And that’s okay.
I wasn’t ready for a long time. A combination of fear of failure, low self-confidence, and the inability to process rejection meant that I sent out a single story once every year or two. It wasn’t for a lack of writing. I simply wasn’t ready to face that barrage of rejection letters that I was told I’d have to go through to achieve my dreams.
What is readiness?
So what did it take to break through the mental block? Because it is a mental and emotional block.
A little more maturity, a little less giving a crap if it fails, and a better understanding of the publication industry in general, which allows me to divest the evil rejection letter of its “Your work is crap, never send anything ever again” power.
The biggest hurdle was realizing I had a choice: Either I commit to submitting, or I accept that my writing is just for me to read. While it was going to be painful and it was going to be messy, if I committed, I had to be in it for the long haul, and I might as well make the biggest mess I could.
And what a mess I’ve made! There are stories I have complete faith in that I simply can’t find a home for. But since I have a better understanding of publishing, that doesn’t hurt as much as it used to.
If you aren’t ready to bite down and bear the pain of rejection, you can still do things to help your career.
- Write. Hone your craft. Create the best stories you can. Submitting doesn’t make you a better writer, writing does. Take this time to examine your work and focus on strengthening weak points.
- Join a writing group. It can be a couple people meeting once a month or a bigger workshop with many authors. A writing group can give you constructive criticism to improve and deadlines to keep you creating.
- Research. Learn about the places you want to write for, even if you’re still too scared to send to them. Make a list of the best places for when you are ready to submit.
When you are ready
Most of all, remember that everyone makes a mess of it in the beginning. When I finally started to get those acceptance letters, they weren’t for the stories I thought they’d be. In fact, the first two I received were ones I sent because they were the only stories I had that fit the themes. They were the last stories I thought would be accepted, because I didn’t consider them my best work.
So write and learn and don’t let anyone shame you for not being ready to submit. You’ll get to where you need to be eventually, and the rejection letters will hold less power over you.
Just remember, they’ll still suck.
Note from Jane: For more perspective on rejection, check out these posts:
Shana Scott is a digital archivist and content specialist with a Master’s degree in Professional Writing and Publishing. She’s a member of SFWA, and her work has been published in magazines, anthologies, and podcasts such as Escape Pod, Gothic Fantasy: Agents & Spies, and Wild Musette. Currently, she writes about the craft of world-building in her blog, Woman in the Red Room.