It’s a reasonably well known fact that to be a writer (or any other kind of artist) means facing rejection on pretty frequent basis. From the beginner level there’s the rejection from literary agents or publishing houses, and then crushingly negative feedback from editors, and then the (sometimes loud and very mean) rejection by unsatisfied readers and/or trolls.
The most common advice I hear is to learn how to take rejection well. ‘Learn to brush it off,’ they all say, with the confidence that comes with giving the kind of advice you never follow yourself. ‘Don’t let it get to you.’
And to that I say, rubbish.
I’ve never been able to take rejection well, and I’ve never even had the cruel, crushing kind. I’ve always been the almost writer. I make short lists, I get asked to keep in touch, I get the most encouraging, positive, we-think-you’re-so-close rejections you can get. And they still send me into a spiral of self loathing and hours of crying in the bathroom followed by weeks of shame flashbacks.
Hell, I’m having one right now.
And that’s totally fine. Rejection feels awful and you’re allowed to be upset over it. What matters is what you do after you’ve taken the hour, day, week to feel crappy about it. That’s when you have to look at the feedback (if there was any) and see what you can apply to your work to improve yourself. Some of it will be personal opinion, but some (probably a lot) will be valid criticism. You don’t have to take all of it on board, but you are being silly if you don’t really seriously examine all of it and understand why it was given.
Then comes the really hard part: trying again.
Rejection is the scariest part of being an artist (and, probably, life). And it’s even scarier because it’s one of those things we know will happen. Death, Taxes (unless you’re rich, apparently) and Rejection: the three certainties of life.
Let it hurt, and then let it make you better.