On Dealing With Rejection

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There never was a dichotomy quite like The Writer: a delicate butterfly-wing of an ego housed inside an elephant hide. And if there is one poison dart that is guaranteed to spear right through that skin o’ thickness to the epicentre of weeping fragility, it’s The Rejection Letter.

After being stung by one of these suckers the only option is, as they say on Twitter, to block and roll. Burn the bastard and move on.

But the truth is, it never gets any easier. The truth is, you spend hours slashing open your veins and bleeding at your keyboard (metaphorically! Jeez!) and someone can flip you off with an email that took seconds to write. Thanks but no thanks. Sorry but no. Not quite what we’re after. What do you mean it’s not what you’re after? DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND MY FUCKING GENIUS?!

But chin up, motherfuckers. No one ever got to the top of the bestseller list by giving the fuck up. Here’s your five step plan to getting over, getting up and getting back awn it.

1. Wallow

A brutal rejection can feel like grieving. Own that bad boy. Slump into the sofa. Shudder quietly as you hold back the tears. Have a flailing tantrum (but not at your agent. Ahem). Drink all the gin. Walk broodily along the seafront with the wind battering against your parka and your hair flowing behind you like a lovelorn heroine in a terrible BBC drama.

2. Have a Plan B

Always, always, always have a Plan B. The crumbling of Plan A (to dust in your fingers! We are nothing but dust! All of us will crumble into the sea, in to space, WE ARE NOTHING BUT DUST IN THE WIND etc and so on) is considerably easier if you have an idea about what to do next. So Granta didn’t want your epic tale about an unlikely love between a lowly filing clerk and his beagle. Who else can you send it to? Have you thought about Beagles Monthly? Filing Clerks Weekly? Can you put it on your blog? Make a pamphlet? Start a revolution in beagle-based fiction?

3. Remember this list

  • Agatha Christie: rejected continuously for five years
  • Margaret Mitchell: 38 rejections for Gone With The Wind
  • JK Rowling: 12 rejections in a row
  • LM Montgomery: 5 rejections for Anne of Green Gables
  • Beatrix Potter: had so many rejections she resorted to self publishing The Tale of Peter Rabbit

4. Be self-critical (but in a nice way)

If you still believe in your work, then great. Crack on and get going with Plan B. If you’re having doubts, have a serious word with yourself. Are you only doubting yourself because of that no-thanks email that only took a couple of seconds to write, or can you see that they might have a point? How can you fix it? Can someone a bit more friendly have a read? Have some down time, muster the strength, and move on to…

5. Get back on it, baby

That horse is waiting. Get back on it. Deconstruct your shit. Edit like a boss. Rewrite rewrite rewrite. Polish, grind down, varnish, spit, file and start again. Never, ever give up. Finishing is your only fucking option.

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