Rejection isn’t personal (Mistake #111)

“Don’t take it to heart.”

“It’s them – not you.”

“It’s nothing personal.”

Share news of a rejection of your work to a friend or loved one and I’ll bet they’ll respond with one of the above – or a variation of.

They’re just saying what is expected of them, and being nice.

You know what? Yes it is personal.

Oh all right. It can be personal. It can be a bit personal.

It doesn’t mean they hate your walk, your manner, your taste in music, your personality.

It doesn’t even necessarily mean they hate your pitch, or idea, or article, or book proposal.

It possibly does mean they don’t think there’s any business sense in accepting it. It either won’t sell, they think, or won’t fit well into the market, or isn’t right for their reader. It’ll cost them – financially. It may cost them readers. They won’t recoup the money they pay you.

Why is there no sense in accepting what you’re offering? It might be no good. They may have accepted something similar recently. It might be boring. They may think you’re not a good writer, or won’t be good – or professional – to work with. They may not be commissioning currently because they’ve enough articles or books. It may not go down well with the advertisers.

There are lots of possible reasons. And some of them are personal.

Your idea, your expression, your work – each of these is an extension of you. Your writing originated in your brain. Something of you – your art, your words, your judgment, your creativity, all of which were formed in the mind by which you are defined – is quite probably being rejected. And that’s personal. I fail to see how it can not be.

How can you know whether it’s personal or not personal – or somewhere in between, as I would imagine it often is? You might not know. The editor may give no clue. Even if he does give some clue, the writer’s mind may be prone to agonise over it for hours or days.

Spare yourself that. Why not just resolve to take it personally before you even open the email or letter? Try it. Suck up that feeling of unwantedness. It’s character building. Wise writers past may have done well out of writing self-help books about dealing with rejection (just look how many there are), but you don’t need them, because you’ve sucked it up, shrugged your shoulders, and moved on to the next potential client. If you have faith in your idea or work, then keep going with it. If you keep getting rejected, review it. Can it be improved? Can you get an honest opinion from someone who you trust? Make it a bit better; send it off again.

Most of all, tell yourself that if it wasn’t for rejection, acceptance wouldn’t be such a thrill.

Comments 1

  • Rejection, pah! I think I've become immune to its effects now. I can remember when I first started writing how much each rejection stung – they really hurt! I think the trick is to have lots of pitches and submissions out there so if one comes back rejected you gave others that may be accepted. Yes, definitely rework pitches/subs and send them somewhere else. The trouble with rejection is that it can be soul and confidence destroying if you let it be – thick skin but ability to improve and move on required.

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