“Don’t allow your wounds to transform you into someone you are not.” —Paulo Coelho
It doesn’t happen often, but every once in a while, I hear a story (second hand) about writers who have been wounded by my feedback. These stories reach me many years after the feedback has been given.
Every single time, while I usually remember the writer in question, I have forgotten what I said, or what the project was about.
I often like to advise writers: Don’t take rejection personally. When you seek commercial publication, you have to switch mindsets. You have to see your writing as a product. You’re entering into a business transaction.
Of course, that’s very easy for me to say. I’m not the one being rejected. That said, I’ve had my share of professional, business-based rejection, too. It gets easier the more you experience it. And when you work on the inside of a publishing house, and you see how decisions get made day to day, you realize there’s nothing about it that any author ought to take seriously.
I wish I could tell those writers, the ones who carry wounds from words I uttered years ago, that what I said was not meant to be taken seriously. It was said as part of my business day, and sometimes I forget there could be a person allowing my words to carry a weight they shouldn’t have.
If you’re carrying around a rejection burden, I hope you’ll reflect on whether or not the person who rejected you is still thinking about it, or could even recall the rejection. If they’re not likely to be carrying a burden, then why do you keep it around for yourself?
For additional inspiration: multiple versions of Two Monks Carry a Woman
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.