Rejection for writers

In the first of my writing guidebooks, 50 Mistakes Beginner Writers Make, I wrote the following:

Rejection means you’re doing things — you’re writing ideas, you’re writing articles — and getting them looked at. It means you’re getting out there …

And a line or two later:

Rejection isn’t winning, I know, but it isn’t losing either — it’s playing the game.

And in the follow up, 50 More Mistakes Beginner Writers Make, there was this:

If there were no setbacks or struggles, such as rejection, there would be no joy in acceptance. If your every shot struck the back of the net, wouldn’t the game of soccer be dull?

And in the third in the series, 50 Mistakes Writers Make, which I plan to release before the end of 2019, I argue of rejection that, because it’s character building, writers should:

… suck up that feeling of unwantedness.

A year ago, The Observer ran an article on rejection, following a social media outpouring of stories under the #ShareYourRejection hashtag.

I remember reading it at the time and sharing on Twitter my concern that some may read the article and feel that ‘success’ (however they measured it) would eventually come after a battery of rejections, and that persistence was all that is required.

But no — there’s no guarantee of that success and, as I’ve also argued before, writers must always feel that quitting is an option for them.

So I was glad to see that the subject of rejection has just been covered in The Guardian, exactly one year on from the Observer’s article (is 26th August National Rejection Awareness Day?!).

Rejection is the norm for authors. So why do we hide it? asks novelist Sophie Mackintosh, in a very readable and honest article, which makes several important points.

The one I agreed most with and wish to highlight is her remark about craving “normal stories of rejection” and not wishing to hear of the J K Rowling ones, which are so far removed from ordinary jobbing writers’ lives.

I share this feeling: I know major authors publicising their rejection stories are well-meant acts, but the people who need to share them are us: writers at the beginning of the journey, or writers who’ve been on the path for some years and may be making a living, but for whom rejection is still a monthly, weekly, perhaps even daily occurrence.

Only if we ordinary writers continue to share our banal and everyday R-word stories — as readily as we do our successes — can we really offer support to those going through doubts and frustration and struggles, and normalise rejection for what it is — a mundane fact of writerly life, but necessary to our apprenticeship as Mackintosh wisely points out.

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