Tuesday, May 10, 2016

How Do You Handle Rejection?

How Do You Handle Rejection? 
by Joan C. Curtis
With trembling hands we open the email only to find the familiar words, "So sorry, but this isn't for us."

What do you do next? 

When I began putting my words on paper, I was a young English student. I expected rejection and ridicule. I had no lofty belief that my English teacher would read what I wrote and rave about my brilliance. Instead, I expected (and rightly so) criticism. At that point in my life, I realized that writing is fraught with the prospect of rejection. 

Never did I realize then what I know now--that rejection is a part of a writer's life. Each time a perfectly crafted query goes unnoticed or worse still in the slush pile, I cringe and hide my head. More than once, I've given up on the project and allowed it to disappear among my long list of Documents, unread and forgotten. 

Withstanding rejection is one of the hardest things any artist has to learn to do. Whether you're a painter, artisan of jewelry, writer or performer, there are people out there who will not love your work. Those people tend to drive us nuts.

As a stand-up trainer I face audiences all the time and I've learned a thing or two about rejection. 

1) For every person out there who frowns at you, there are fifteen who are smiling.

2) If we focus on the frowns, we will not only become paralyzed, but we will also fail those smiling faces.
3) Sometimes the frowns are misinterpreted. Sometimes even they are smiling underneath the frown.
4) Those who persist win.

I'm trying to adapt these insights to my writing endeavors. When someone rejects my work (or writes a negative review), I remind myself that agent or publisher or reader is not rejecting me. And, guess what, maybe my timing was wrong. Maybe it was a perfectly crafted query. 

If I persist, maybe someone will look up from the page and smile. 

How do you handle rejection?

For more information about Joan C. Curtis and her award-winning books, please visit her website

Stay tuned next Tuesday when The Muse Marquee's article will be: Promotional & Marketing Tips by Lea Schizas.


Margaret Fieland said...

Handling rejection: first I remind myself that it's only someone's opinion. Second, I remind myself that it's a numbers game: if only ten percent (arbitrary figure) of, say, the poetry I submit is accepted, then I need to submit ten queries for every one that will succeed. Next, I try to ensure that my queries are properly targeted: does the publisher like my kind of work? Have I adhered to the submission standards?

True story: I was one part of a group interviewing candidates for a position with my then-employer, a hole-in-the-wall computer shop that did work for one of the ten-big discount retailers in New York City. The head interviewer wanted to reject this candidate because she was too well-dressed and thus wouldn't fit into our grungy shop. I myself was one rejected for wearing boots to an interview for what I suspect was much the same reason.

J.Q. Rose said...

Excellent advice, Joan. I first encountered rejection/criticism in a career when I was a floral designer. Everything I created for customers' orders was subject to rejection. The arrangement they pictured in their mind may or may not be what I pictured for them, so sometimes they thought the flowers were even better than what they expected, and sometimes not. I learned you can't please everyone whether in retailing or writing. You just have to work with it and move on. Sometimes valuable lessons are learned from rejection. I always look for that to help me deal with the bad experience.

Margaret-I like your line that it's "only someone's opinion." Keep it in perspective.