How to Recover From Writing Rejection

Rejection. It's a part of life, and it's a part of writing.

Every writer's got one or two piles of letters and emails that go something like this:

Dear Writer, Thanks, but we cannot accept your writing at this time. We wish you luck finding a home for your work elsewhere. Sincerely, Literary Magazine

My heart breaks a little bit every time I receive a rejection email. At first it hurts for the poem. Then, because my poems have so much of ME in them, it feels like I'M the one getting rejected.

Every writer knows the self-doubt that accompanies the writing process. We think, who am I to write? Who am I to call myself a writer? Who am I to think I have something to share? And every rejection notice seems to make that nagging voice a little bit stronger, a little bit bolder.

The truth is, for every one poem or story accepted, it's not unusual for ten or more poems to be rejected beforehand. And some poems might circulate from magazine inbox to magazine inbox before they find a home. And that's okay.

How to Recover from Writing Rejection

Know that it's okay to wallow:

What writer doesn't love Gilmore Girls? As a dabbler in writing scripts, I envy the dialogue in this show! And every so often there is a piece of wisdom for non-journalists. When Rory and Dean breakup, Loreli tells Rory that she needs to wallow. This advice applies to all heartbreaks and rejections--even the literary ones!

Accepting rejection is a process, and it's okay to be sad or mourn or go through the motions of grief! You might be in a state of denial that your best work could have been rejected! Maybe you feel angry that once again your writing was passed over for someone else's. And then the sadness hits. But at the end of it all, what is important is that you find a way to gracefully accept the verdict and move on.

When my writing gets rejected, I'll light a candle for my poem or story and tell it that I still believe in it. Sounds kooky, but it helps me feel better and get back to business sooner.

So come up with your own rituals that help you manage your emotions and keep writing and sharing.

Know that it's not necessarily because your writing was bad:

Remember that literary magazines are overwhelmed with submissions and can usually only take from 1-5% of the work submitted.

For example, when I read poetry submissions for Freefall, there are so many more poems that I wish I could publish than there is space for. Why can't we take more? Well, for magazines that are committed to paying their contributors, one of the considerations for how many poems we can accept is how many writers we can pay for the particular issue.