It’s relatively common that writers experience swirling masses of thoughts sprinkled with hints of anxiety due to the worry and anticipation of receiving a rejection of their work. In fact, writers constantly worry about rejections. We worry about rejections from our editors, our publishers, our agents, our friends, our families and even from our neighbor’s cat! As writers, we certainly know that rejections are an inevitable part of the writing process and we have all experienced rejections.
With that in mind, I think the only way to effectively manage rejections is to start with how NOT to manage them! One of the most striking examples that I can recall occurred this past summer when I submitted my long-awaited manuscript that I had developed over multiple seasons. The manuscript was a memoir that I believed was at the height of perfection and contained some of my best romance stories coupled with the theater of a few nasty break-ups. I thought the manuscript was fabulous! So, I feverishly submitted a quarter-pound of proposals to every small press that I could find, then I was politely and sometimes generically greeted with a rejection form letter. In fact, I had received so many rejections that my work created a paper tsunami in my inbox that resulted in a generated message that read as follows, “your mailbox is full and no incoming messages can be received.”
I was crushed after having spent countless hours writing a manuscript only to have it yield a flood of rejections. Soon thereafter, I found myself engaged in hours of self-loathing and doubt which was definitely a clue that I needed time to reflect about my writing. At this point, I sought reassurance, so I asked a girlfriend to review my manuscript and provide me with comments about my work. The very next day, my friend returned my manuscript and she unexpectedly ripped it apart like the sails on a boat lost at sea! Nonetheless, I incorporated her edits and I parked my bruised feelings along with my manuscript on my bookshelf. Then, for a week or two, I resigned myself to simply not think about the manuscript nor my friend’s feedback. Instead, I read books, worked at my day job, visited family and friends and I otherwise enjoyed life. This was just what I needed because on week three of my hiatus from writing, I returned to my manuscript with a fresh, new outlook, which ultimately lead me to re-evaluate my memoir and rewrite a few chapters. During the fourth and final week of my hiatus, I redesigned my proposal pitches, re-evaluated the marketplace and I prepared my manuscript for re-submission to a few interested publishers.
Looking back on this experience, I probably wasn’t prepared for the barrage of rejection letters that I received, but it helped me to realize that rejections are really gifts. They’re gifts because they forced me to self-reflect and determine why the rejection occurred in the first place as well as question whether I did my very personal best. With this newfound understanding, I know that my next rejection letter will be viewed as a gift. I now understand that rejection letter gifts are offered to writers if: 1) their work appears to be a poor fit for the publication; 2) guidelines weren’t followed; or 3) a whole host of other reasons of which I’m certainly not aware. The most important takeaway is that rejection letters build the character and resiliency needed to help writers find paths to acceptance of their submitted work.
Last summer now seems light years ago and rejections often serve as reminders to ensure that my work ages just like fine wine. Essentially, writing mimics the same process needed to age fine wine: there must be the proper exposure to air and time to produce classic vintage stock; otherwise, the outcome results in a rejection or even worse… bad wine!
About NIKKI CARR
NIKKI CARR is a writer whose work has appeared in various journals, magazines and newspapers including: the Sacramento Bee, the London Journal of Fiction, Dual Coast Magazine, Jitter Press, Adanna Literary Journal, 50 Word Stories, ELJ Publications and the Cardinal Flower Journal. Her upcoming book, Hope, Health and Healing will be forthcoming in 2018. Her work has also been recognized with a poetry award from the Lilian Osborn Foundation.