The Tao of Rejection

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Issue 62

The Tao of Rejection


Aimee Laine

Copyright © 2011, Aimee Laine , All Rights Reserved


You and writing are one; fingers and keyboard bound through to the last punctuation mark. Your work, written with love, blessed by your mother, edited with care and critiqued by at least a few, is complete.

Excitement bubbles as you piece together a query letter to entice, sell and ignite interest in your written words. Months or years put into a novel, hours or days to craft the perfect article. Agents will clamor for it; magazine editors will vie for it. Readers everywhere will gush at the words on the page.

As your pride swells from a job well done, you copy and paste words into an email. Addressed properly, spelling triple checked, with a shaky finger you strike the ‘enter’ key. Your heart and soul streams cyberspace as your message lands in the inbox of at least one fortunate agent, editor or publisher.

You repeat this activity not once or twice but ten, eleven or even twenty times more. With each submission you wonder: Who will ask for my work first? Who will I sign with? What will my payment be? Should I buy a Jaguar or a Porsche? Stop there. Set more realistic expectations.

Half the battle in accepting a rejection is in thinking too far ahead.

As you sit back, refocused on a new goal of acceptance, the ding from your computer signals in incoming message. Your heart races; it’s been just an hour. One click of the mouse and a message from your favorite agent, about your most recent novel, appears. With one eye squinted, you prepare to read the good news.


Dear Author,

Thank you for your interest, but unfortunately, I find I am not the right agent for this work. Please don't take this as rejection of your writing ability, because it isn't intended to be one. I'm sure another will feel differently.

Best of luck to you with the submission process,

Your Favorite Agent


Emotion consumes you, and your fingers scramble to let them know exactly what they can do with their rejection, but you heed your mother’s advice. Think before you speak. You delete the message, sit back again to await another response.

Six months later, as the chime dings and you consider that you’ve not heard from anyone in a while, you slowly click over to your email program prepared to read and delete the latest spam. Instead you’ve received another rejection. This cannot be! You want to cry out but your cubicle buddies would wonder; personal use of company property is strictly forbidden. No one can know the torment you’ve been put through.

Rejection sucks.

According to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross' book, On Death and Dying, there are five stages of grief. Rejection, while nowhere near the same as the passing of a loved one, takes a tiny piece out of you. Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. For a writer, the next step is perseverance.

Move through those stages quickly. Build up a wall on which everything but acceptance sticks. This way, your response to a rejection will come with a more professional sense of calm, though it will not be easy and can feel, at the moment of receipt, like a dagger stuck through your wounded heart. But you must start again.

Don’t take only my word for it. Stephen King received dozens of rejections. Fifteen publishers rejected The Diary of Anne Frank. Faulkner, Grisham, Rowling, Blume, Lawrence. All rejected at one time or another.

The next time the chime of your email pulls you from your day job, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Open it, scan quickly and close it. If it’s a request for more? Scream it to the hills, or copy and paste it to a friend since you still have to be quiet in your eight foot by eight cube.

If it’s another rejection? Put your mind to another task. Don’t think about it for at least one whole minute. Give your body a chance to release the adrenaline rush. The vision of the multi-million dollar check attached as a PDF is fantasy.

Once your inner calm has returned, open the email again to see if the response has been personalized. If there is any unique information, file it to the back of your mind, but don’t do anything with it immediately. If you must respond, do it with paper and pencil. When the throb in your hand, from all the expletives and demonic suggestions, subsides and your sanity returns, rip it to shreds.

With each correspondence, including public messages on Facebook, Twitter and blogs, you are building relationships within the industry and fellow artists. Not only have you avoided a tear in your reputation, you’ve burned off some anger, and potentially a calorie or two.

After you’ve shredded your response, forward the email to your critique partner or a writer-friend. They understand and can wallow with you, offer you a pat on the back and a solemn word of advice. They did while you were writing, right? You trust them to tell you what is good and bad; let them be your ray of sunshine and tell you to keep going. Never send a rejection to your mother; she’ll respond exactly as you wanted to about ‘those horrible people’.

Success takes perseverance. While you wait for the remainder of your rejections, a nibble of a requests, maybe even one or two acceptances, look to your community for the opportunity to practice. Offer to write for a non-profit, local magazines, your child’s school or in your own blog. Practice small while you think big, especially if you’re a budding novelist. Not only will it build your portfolio, it will boost your self-confidence and keep you writing.

Someday, you’ll get an email more like this. While it’s not the next blockbuster book, it’s a start.

Aimee,Don’t let your response to rejection curtail your dreams or derail your reputation. Let the next ‘no, thank you’ be your stepping stone to greater opportunity. The chance to write is the ultimate goal, right? Who knows? ‘Girl meets love of her life at local dog show’ could just be the next best seller.

Is this an early April Fool's joke? Are you toying with my emotions? Late Friday afternoon I was complaining how I’ve had to cover [the event] for the last 10 years! I write the same story every year. To quote myself, "I would love to have someone cover it for me this year." You have no idea how much I would appreciate you covering it. You will provide a fresh perspective.

If you wish to accept this mission I would be thrilled,

Editor in Chief, local newspaper


Book noted: On Death and Dying, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Scribner, ISBN: 978-0684842233