5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Rejection Letters

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How writers can turn “kiss off” into “keep on going!”

“I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member,” said Groucho Marx (though the exact quote seems to differ depending on the source).

Well Groucho would’ve had an easy time as an aspiring writer– relishing each new rejection letter as further validation of his outsider status.

The rest of us probably aren’t so contrary (or ironic) about rejection; it hurts, no matter how much we tell ourselves to not take it personally.

Whether you get sad, stoic, defiant, or irate following a “thanks, but no thanks” missive– the most important thing is to keep submitting, keep writing, and keep crossing your fingers!

How writers can use rejection as motivation

1. LET YOURSELF FEEL WHATEVER YOU NEED TO FEEL

Didn’t Buddha say something about emotions being ephemeral? Maybe it’s best to acknowledge that you’re pissed off or confused or sad. Don’t put your hand through drywall or anything. Just let yourself be angry, and know that it will pass.

2. REMIND YOURSELF THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU

Whether you submitted a manuscript to a magazine, publisher, agent, or editor, there were probably thousands of competing manuscripts in the running. Remember, rejection is not a reflection of quality; it’s more a matter of taste and timing. The best way to increase your odds for acceptance is to stay productive and keep trying.

Also, remember that your favorite writers were all rejected a bazillion times before they published their breakthrough works. To read some hilarious and cruel rejection letters that have been sent to famous authors, click HERE, and HERE. Whenever you get down, revisit these letters.

3. TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR SUBMISSION AGAIN

It’s worth revisiting your manuscript when it comes back to you with a big “No” stamped on it. Did the rejection letter offer any advice or criticism? If so, consider it– maybe incorporate those suggestions into your next revision. If you still feel confident about how the draft stood when you sent it off last time, get it ready to send out again. Which brings us to…

4. SEND YOUR MANUSCRIPT BACK OUT IMMEDIATELY  

If it still feels right to you, send your manuscript out the very next day. Look through the various marketplace listings and check Duotrope for places that are actively reading unsolicited submissions.

If you’re going to do some revisions, get to it! Don’t get bogged down, though. Try to send your manuscript out again as quickly as possible. The quicker the turnaround time, the more people will see your writing. The more people that see your writing, the better your chances of publication!

5. WORK ON SOMETHING BRAND NEW

 Once that manuscript has been sent back out, it’s more important than ever to get to work on something fresh and exciting. New writing will help you feel a sense of discovery, hope, and growth. If you’re excited about some new poem, story, or novel that you’re working on, your previous rejections won’t weigh as heavily on your mind– and any rejections that might still be waiting around the corner will sting half as much.

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What do you do when you get a rejection letter? How do you manage to stay productive? I’d love to hear about your experiences. Please feel free to comment in the section below.

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Chris Robley
Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

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