How To Bounce Back From Rejection
In September 2010 I decided I wanted to write. I had never written narrative before or even had an interest in doing so. But out of the blue one morning I decided I wanted to write a novel and I enrolled on an ambitious challenge – to write a book in 100 days. I went for it with gusto and I completed the challenge within the allotted time.
With the project completed I set my sights on getting the novel published. I was so proud of what I had written and I was convinced that publishers would be thrilled to receive my manuscript. I submitted the work and I waited to receive the offer to publish.
They took their time getting back to me. In my excitement I assumed that they were ironing out the details of the publishing contract and the marketing campaign, and I was happy to wait for the good news to be made official.
So imagine my shock when their email to me was one of those standard rejection responses that went something like: “Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately this is a highly competitive market and we are very selective about the manuscripts we publish”. To their credit they did offer a few explanations – the market, the economy, the genre…etc. At the end of it, though, I was left in no doubt that it was a clear and definitive NO.
I was crushed. And it wasn’t just because I really thought my manuscript was good. I simply didn’t understand how I could have been so wrong. Was I fooling myself to think I could write?
That rejection stayed with me for months afterwards. My confidence was shaken to the core and I felt stumped as to how to move forward. I’d been so wrong about my writing abilities; how could I trust myself with anything else?
But even in the midst of all this doubt a part of me still knew that I had something to offer. And then one morning it dawned on me: NO isn’t NO forever. Sure, they weren’t interested for now. But that didn’t mean that they would never be interested in my manuscript or that other publishers wouldn’t be interested in it or anything else I chose to write. The onus was on me to improve my writing to ensure that I produced work that publishers would gladly accept. That realisation transformed my attitude towards my writing and I enrolled on a course to further develop my skills. Less than two years later I had won two writing awards, for both fiction and nonfiction.
Rejection is painful, but it can also be a valuable test of your commitment. Do you want this enough? Are you willing to step up or do you just want to get by?
When my first manuscript was rejected I learned that, instead of focusing on the doom and gloom, I could move forward powerfully by asking myself the following questions:
- Is there something for me to learn from this rejection or criticism?
- Can I up my game in some way?
- Is there more research I can do, a different angle from which to approach the work, more skills to acquire?
- Or am I just barking up the wrong tree? (This is itself a valuable insight; not every venture is going to work out).
I usually invest so much of myself in all my endeavours that I naturally expect that they will bear fruit. But I now know that rejection and failure are part of the success package. What matters is that I do my best, I enjoy the successes and I learn from the disappointments.