My heart flipped over when I saw the email. It was 2 pm, so I'd resigned myself to the fact that my essay had not been selected. But then I saw the email...
Maybe they wanted my essay after all!
Happy dance at the ready, my eyes rapidly scanned the small snippet of text displayed in my inbox: "Thank you for your submission. We received a large number..." My heart sank. It was a rejection email. I tapped on the email with my heart pounding and my cheeks flushed with the pinkest color of disappointment. Yada yada, we appreciate your submission. I tapped my phone off.
Disappointment flooded me, along with a high-pitched anxiety intent on managing the situation: Don't feel upset about it, it will be okay. No downward spirals alright? We talked about this. It's not a judgement of your worth. You're fine.
I'm not sure which was worse - feeling miserable about the rejection or trying so hard to not feel miserable about it. The truth is, whenever you submit an essay or short story or book proposal or manuscript you face rejection. It's a scary and vulnerable place to be.
But every writer has been rejected at least a time or two.
Just search "author rejection stories" if you don't believe me.
So we all face it, but what do you do when you get the rejection email? How do you gracefully allow yourself to feel disappointed without letting it swallow you whole?
Here's how to deal with rejection as a writer:
1. Get a reality check.
Text your BFF, your partner-in-crime, your mentor, or anyone you can trust. Tell them you got a rejection email and then tell them how you really feel. "Hey, I got rejected, but I'm actually okay with it" isn't going to help anyone. Try: "I got rejected and I feel about one-inch tall. I feel like they probably hated it and I'm a failure. I'm grumpy and want to quit being a writer. Also I want to eat a huge bag of gummy bears." Listen as they tell you that they understand, they've been rejected too. Listen as they tell you that you are aces in their book and they will publish your poem because they love it so much. Listen and believe them.
2. Read the rejection stories of famous authors.
We are so the opposite of alone in this, but for some reason when we face rejection, that's the first lie we tell ourselves - that no other writer who was worth their salt was ever rejected. Which then tricks you into believing that the reason you weren't accepted is because you are a terrible writer. Not so, my friend. Many a fabulous writer has faced rejection. Don't believe me? Ask Google.
3. Treat yo'self.
Yes, you are a grown up, but an ice cream cone has magical properties and makes rejection hurt less. It's science. So buy that bag of gummy bears or get a bottle of champagne and toast to yourself for putting your work out there. Rejection or no, trying is something you should be proud of. You can't ever get a yes if you don't try, so a no just reminds you that you're trying. And that's something to celebrate.
4. Remind yourself that with every no, you are one step closer to a yes.
Math was never my strong suit, but in this case it's pretty easy to determine that the odds are in your favor. If you must get 10 rejections before someone jumps for joy to publish your beautiful words, then the first no is a painful checkmark on the path to your dream. Take it like the punch in the gut it is and live to write another day. You can do this.
5. Submit something else soon.
Don't wait too long before you try again. You need to keep up your momentum and not let the gremlins in your head take over. The sooner you move on to the next submission, the sooner you will let go of the old and start looking forward to the new.
Buck up, little camper. You can face the rejection monster and stand victorious. All you need is a little sweetness, a lot of hugs, and gentle persistence. I'm convinced that one day you will be toasting over a beautiful acceptance letter.
How do you deal with rejection as a writer? Let me know in the comments!