Even though most writers know that rejection is part of the process of publication, we still feel the sting of it deeply. Every time. And honestly, it never gets easier. At least for me.
We often think of rejection in terms of getting a “no thanks” on a query or manuscript we sent to an agent or publisher. But the longer I’m on the path to publication, the more I realize rejection can come in many different ways and from many sources. And it always hurts, no matter where we’re at in the process.
As I mentioned in the last post, my publisher Bethany House gave me their feedback on Book 2 of my contract. It was incredibly difficult to hear they didn’t like the way I’d developed the story. In my head I realize my publisher only wants to make my book as saleable as possible, but in my heart, the feedback felt an awful lot like rejection.
I may have been slightly naive to believe I’d be immune to rejection or that it wouldn’t hurt quite as much once I finally got a book contract. But I was wrong. Whether it’s the first form rejection we receive on the first book we query, or it’s a “this-book-isn’t-going-to-work-for-us” rejection that I recently received, the pain punches us in the gut and knocks the breath from us.
We can take some small measure of twisted comfort in knowing we’re not alone, that rejection is as natural to a writer’s life as a thunderstorm in summer. But even when we know we’re not alone, how can we ease the pain that comes with rejection? Is there even a way?
After my most recent rejection, here are the thoughts I jotted down:
Rejection puts life in perspective.
The night after getting my rejection, I stopped and said to myself, “Am I missing out on too much of life because of the time I devote to my writing career?” Life happens in a blink. And I don’t want it to pass by with the regret that I didn’t take more time for the things that matter most. What can I do to make sure I’m slowing down?
Rejection keeps us humble.
Rejections are the quickest way to eliminate my pesky pride. If I succeeded at everything, if I never failed, and if I never got stinging criticism, I’d hate to see the size of my ego. The criticisms or painful realities never fail to prick a pin into that ego right about the time everything seems wonderful. Then pop! I’m back to realizing I’m just an average, ordinary writer.
Rejection reminds us that pursuing publication is NOT for the faint of heart.
The plain and simple truth is that pursuing publication is more difficult than anyone ever tells us. Or maybe they do mention it, but for some deluded reason we believe it will be easier for us. I had to ask myself, “Am I really cut out for this? Can I keep taking this kind of rejection book after book?” If we can’t take rejection, then we probably need to go back to writing stories for personal pleasure rather than publication.
Rejection shows us that we can’t please everyone.
There will always be someone who can find something they don’t like about our books. I won’t please everyone. So then, who should we please? We obviously can’t just think about ourselves and what we want. We have to be open to the suggestions of others. But who should we listen to? And how much should we be willing to change to please others?
In the next post, I’ll attempt to tackle those questions and share more details about how I’m handling my rewrites on Book 2.
For today, I’d love to commiserate about rejection and know I’m not alone in the pain of it! Have you been rejected recently? How did you handle it? What lessons have you learned or are you learning from the process?
*Influencer Update: Thanks to all who signed up to be Influencers for The Preacher's Bride! Bethany House will mail your free copy of the book in early September. They're giving me 50 MORE influencer copies than I'd originally realized! So, if you haven't signed up yet and you're interested in getting a book, please send me an email with your mailing address (use my Contact page). And if you don't know what it means to influence, Bethany House has some great ideas here: Influencer Tips.