Rejection is a part of life – sounds encouraging, doesn’t it? There’s no point in pretending it won’t happen to you because it will. So the question is how do you deal with it.
Do you cry? Curse? Throw a temper tantrum? Shrug? Confronting your own inadequacies is one of the most difficult things to deal with in life, and we’ve all had to do it at one point. So how do you move on? Now I’m not giving advice on how you should deal with rejection. If you need that, perhaps you should set up an appointment with a grief counselor. But I will tell you how I’ve dealt with it within the world of writing. I say “dealt” rather than “deal” because the way I’ve handled rejection has changed over the years.
When I first started sending off letters to agents back in 2006-2007, I had dreams of the agent writing back, hardly able to contain their enthusiasm for my stellar prose, begging me to sign with them. Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, it didn’t happen. Now I’m not going to get into why an agent rejects a writer because that is for the agent to explain, but they usually let you down gently by telling you that your work isn’t a right fit for their agency.
So how did I deal with rejection? As anyone would, I became depressed and I questioned my ability to write. And as I received more rejections, I even thought about quitting. I probably would have too if I had been able to find a full-time job. I didn’t quit though. I kept writing. Each new rejection brought a new emotion, as well as a new skin. Eventually, if an agent turned down my manuscript, I said, “Oh well” and moved on. There’s no point of getting upset about it since there is little you can do (that still probably won’t stop me). The only thing you can do is keep writing.
It’s important to remember that an agent isn’t rejecting you, just your project. While it doesn’t necessarily take the sting out of the rejection, you can move on knowing it says nothing about your abilities, only their tastes at the moment.
Two years ago, my book, SCAR OF THE DOWNERS, was picked up by a publisher, WiDo Publishing. And this past winter, my second book, RISE OF THE BRANDED, was picked up by the same publisher. It felt great that someone accepted my work. Isn’t this what all writers want? To see their work published?
In reality, however, even though I was accepted, it doesn’t mean rejection is a thing of the past. While people may end up loving my book, there will be those who dislike it, won’t read it, or even hate it – and they may be many.
The truth of the matter is that you can’t base your work’s worth or your worth on the opinion of others. That doesn’t mean you don’t listen to wise advice or worthy critiques. It just means that you don’t give up.
So in the end, the only way I really dealt with rejection is by persevering. That is the only thing someone can’t take away from you.
I’ll end with a quote from the television series FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (a show I loved).
"You get one chance in life, fellas. You can either take advantage of it, or you can piss it away. You do that latter, and you're gonna regret it the rest of your lives."
- Coach Taylor
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.