When You’re Just Not Ready for Rejection

When you're not ready for rejection

Photo credit: nadi0 on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-ND

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.

Getting ready

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:

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Guest Post.

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.

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Lisa Tener

What great advice! I’ve not heard anyone talk about waiting to submit until ready for rejections, yet I can see the wisdom in it!

Margo Dill

I agree. This is a great thing to consider. Because if writers start getting rejected before they are ready, they might get discouraged and quit. Great post!

Kaye Curren

A great article and I needed it. I’m on my year anniversary of not submitting. I attended a writers workshop last year and came away feeling completely inferior after a year of great beginner’s luck. I allowed the success of others to take me down. I did decide to focus on writing better this year. I do hope the blockage doesn’t go on past this month or I will begin to worry. Thanks, Shana.

Shana Scott

I’m glad the article helped! Don’t feel bad about not submitting for a year. I went almost five years after my first publication to when I really buckled under and started submitting en masse. I simply wasn’t in the right place mentally to do it despite that first push. It sucks, but it isn’t a bad thing or anything to be ashamed of. Keep writing!

Star Ostgard
Star Ostgard

I have belonged to several writers’ forums where writers who have not submitted, let alone published, are told they aren’t even writers. I felt pressured to submit because I was frustrated being told that, no matter how well I wrote, I wasn’t part of the “elite”. So I started writing to publish – and I hated it. The joy was gone, the personal challenge to do it well was gone – it was now a “business”. I actually quit writing for a long, long time. I dropped out of the forums, and eventually started writing again, just for “fun” –… Read more »

Barbara Huntington

Thank you. I have been too thin skinned to submit anything (other than locally) for awhile, but today I sent 4 poems to Rattle and a poem and a Readers Write to The Sun. Whenever I get a rejection I get depressed and slither under a rock. Today I decided I will try to send something out every Sunday. I imagine this will last until the next rejection, but for today…

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