I’m going to be real with you.
I’ve experienced an enormous amount of rejection. Not the “I’ve been rejected 10 times” type of rejection. Not the “I’ve been rejected 100 times” type of rejection. No, I’m talking four-figures worth of rejection. Anybody who is anybody has said no to me.
As of today, I’ve gotten 1781 rejections for my writing. Yep, that’s 1781 times that someone has read my work and said, “Nope, this isn’t good enough.”
I don’t like to share that. Because I feel like as an author and teacher and editor, I have to project this aura of invincibility: “Look at me! I’ve figured out how to do this! I’ve published books and won big contests and I am the greatest!”
But the truth is that for every contest I’ve won, I’ve racked up hundreds of other rejections. For every book I’ve published, I’ve gotten many, many emails from publishers saying, “You’re not good enough.”
And I guarantee that I’m not alone. Ask any writer and they’ll tell you about their failures as well.
But you shouldn’t just suffer under the weight of rejection — you can learn from it!
Here are 6 things that I’ve learned from amassing an Everest-sized pile of rejections:
- Just because one publisher/agent doesn’t like your story doesn’t mean anything. It might be right for someone else. Taste is a huge factor in stories, and you just need to find the right tastemaker.
- You are not a unique snowflake for piling up thousands of rejections. You are merely living the writing life. If you think you’re abnormal, you’ll beat yourself up, but if you think of this as the normal course of becoming a writer, you’ll endure it with fortitude.
- Don’t get gun shy because you get a rejection. Revise it, then send it out to 10 more places. It’s natural to avoid things that hurt, but the solution is not to stop submitting, but stop allowing the rejections to hurt you. Armor-clad your writing confidence.
- Your self-worth does not depend on acceptances. Not even your worth as a writer depends on acceptances. You’re a writer because you write, and your writing will, in the proper time, find its way to the right readers.
- You can’t avoid rejection by self-publishing. Yes, you won’t be rejected by agents or publishers, but you will struggle to find readers, and get rejected in the marketing process (with attempts to get book reviews!) and get bad reviews sometimes. Every writer has to have a system to deal with rejection, not just those seeking traditional publication.
- Sometimes rejection tells you that you are writing the wrong thing. Maybe you need to switch genres, maybe you need to write something shorter or longer. Don’t keep pounding your head against the wall — pivot and try something a little different.
Never rejecting myself,
John Matthew Fox
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