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Survival Guide for the Thin-Skinned Writer

Journal Entry: Thu Feb 21, 2013, 1:10 PM
Your Title - version 2.0


If you've ever thought of becoming a published writer, you must know the path to publication entails two things that go hand in had: submissions and rejections. If you're thick-skinned enough not to get depressed about rejections and analyze them with an impersonal, objective eye, all the better for you. But if you happen to be the sensitive type who makes a big deal out of the usual "your submission isn't a good fit for us", then the whole process might be very painful. It would be a good idea to toughen up and grow a thick skin, of course, but what do you do when you can't thicken your skin just by wishing it?

As a this-skinned writer who had been suffering from depression even before she began submitting her stories to magazines, and who has received around 150 rejections so far, I've gathered a few ideas on how to deal with rejection when not being affected by it isn't an option.

1. Give yourself a little treat for every rejection you get. Personally, I prefer chocolate because it's a great antidepressant, but it can be anything that makes you happy, whether it's something you like to eat or a favorite movie you enjoy watching again and again, or just indulging in crying on the shoulder of someone special (provided that someone is special enough to understand how much you need their support at a time like this).

2. Think of gathering rejections as a positive thing. There's a myth among beginner writers that you need to get 100 rejections before you can get your first acceptance. Of course, that's not an exact figure and it's possible you'll get an acceptance before your 100th rejection, but it's good for you to make a countdown where each rejection you get brings you a step closer to your goal.

3. Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. For most publications, only less than 1% of submissions get accepted. And sometimes editors have to reject stories they like simply because there isn't enough room to publish all of them. Same goes for novels: there are only that many novels a publisher can put on the market every year, and the number of novels written every year is much larger. A rejection doesn't necessarily mean your submission wasn't good, it just means at least a handful of others were better. And its' not even certain that they were better to begin with: Harry Potter, Twilight and other successful novels have been rejected at least once. You're in great and illustrious company.

4. Look at rejections as a form of feedback that can help you improve. This should have been top of the list, but I assure you it's a lot easier to take in the feedback from a rejection after you've had some chocolate and congratulated yourself on being one step closer to publication. There's a lot to write about what kind of information you can derive from a rejection (personal or form) and how to best use it (though sometimes the best use for it is turning it into toilet paper) and I'll write a separate blog post about that if anyone's interested. For this post on surviving rejection, it's enough to point out that rejections offer you feedback, which will help you improve as a writer. If you get a personal rejection, that's like getting a free critique from an editor, and an editor is someone with valuable experience in the field of publishing.

5. Get your ego re-inflated. If you're like me, a handful of rejections will make you think that you're a failure, that no one will ever publish anything you write and no one will ever like what you write. What you need to get you out of the dumps and writing again is some appreciation for your work, someone who likes your writing even when editors and publishers don't. Enjoyment of any form of art is a very personal, subjective thing and there will always be people who love your writing because they can relate to it. A great writer will be able to write something that will be enjoyed by a larger, wider audience, but until you reach that level it's important to remind yourself that, while some may reject your stories, there are always people who love them.

6. Sit down and write. Ultimately, the best thing to do about rejection is to get over it. Channel your energy into writing an even better story or an even better novel. Give those editors something they'll want to publish, something that will make them tell their friends "I remember their first submission I rejected. It showed great promise."

Once upon a time, many years ago, I read somewhere that you can only make it in the publishing business if you have a thick skin. That made me cry. I thought "Here's another reason why I'll never be a published writer: never mind my lack of talent or my natural lazyness, but even my personality is all wrong for this." Having published a few stories in token-paying magazines, I wouldn't say I've "made it" in the publishing business, but I've grown more optimistic about the chances of making a career out of my writing. And I can tell you that you shouldn't be discouraged just because you don't have a thick skin and can't grow one overnight.

Journal skin by *NishithV found here
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kamalaksh Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
I haven't quite reached 100, but it's definitely getting there!
I don't deal well with rejection in general, if a friend doesn't feel like coming out for a drink with me I start to think I smell or that no one likes me. I try to tell myself that rejection doesn't mean failure.

I local writer I love once told me he wrote short stories for a magazine and that his first 20-some stories didn't even get acknowledged. He afterwards received rejection letters for stories numbered 20-40. After some 50 stories, one of them was finally accepted. When he met with the agent, he was told that his publishers only picked the truly determined. He was later highly supported to get collections of stories published, then his first novels.
dparparita Featured By Owner Feb 28, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
You do need to be determined if you want to be a writer, because unless you are a natural born genius it will take a lot of work to become really good at it, just as it takes a lot of work to become really good at anything.

Most publishers don't put a writer's patience and determination to such a test, but unless you're a natural born genius, it does take a lot of tries to figure out what sells. I find it easier to cope with rejection if I think of it as part of the learning process rather than as simply rejection, but I highly recommend chocolate.

As for friends, I also feel I've been rejected if one refuses to see me at some point, and I try not to bother them again by asking a second time. They've learned they need to be the ones to call me after something like this, instead of waiting for me to call and ask them out again. On the other hand, if my friends had ever felt rejected after I've turned down a drink or a pizza because I'm behind with my writing for a contest deadline, I probably wouldn't have any friends anymore :lol: It's lucky they understand "I'm busy" really means just that, and "I don't feel like it" means "I need to stay home and write, and I do love you, I just have a hard time showing it before a deadline."
SadisticIceCream Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013   Writer
This is fantastic -- I'm definitely adding it to my publishing resources list. :D
dparparita Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
Thank you :D
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh hello, why didn't I see this before. :eager:

I think having a "thick skin" is really a euphemism for "roll with the punches and don't let negative feedback stop you from improving."
dparparita Featured By Owner Feb 24, 2013  Hobbyist Writer
It is, and it's good. But not everyone can do that. Not without chocolate :D
neurotype Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I think I'm going to pretend i need chocolate :drool: seriously though, it's not like I don't die a little at rejection, I just find it more useful (and the only way to sleep at night, thank you insomnia) to figure out what i need to change and work on that.
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February 21, 2013
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