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From the Blog: Handling Rejection


Every great writer will come across rejection at some point, so what then? Nichelle Wong shares her piece on how to handle rejection based on her own personal experiences.

So you've done it. You've sent in the application, submitted the piece, started the blog. You've overcome what you've thought was the abyss —the fear, the procrastination—and finally started on your hero's journey. You've tried your very best, and now you sit back and wait to reap the results. But then...

Your application gets rejected. Actually, all 6 of them get rejected. Your piece doesn't even make it to the honorable mentions. Your blog averages one view a week, probably from your distant relative or one friend.

You're shattered. Where's the result of everything you've worked for? You were going to be a shining star, but now you've sunk way below the horizon.

If you have a parent or friend that understands and supports you, great. But the vast majority of us are surrounded by people who will awkwardly pat our backs, avoiding eye contact as they mumble, "Better luck next time." Or well-intentioned do-gooders who lecture us on the trials of life and the necessity of not giving up.

Obviously, there's truth in that. But you know what? Screw that.

You've just lost everything you've worked for. Even if it's just one contest, you sent a piece of yourself out to the world, and the world rejected it. And that stinks. People will tell you it's not a personal rejection, but it sure feels like one. It feels like you'll never get anywhere with your writing.

I’m speaking from experience, obviously. If you don't feel that way, congratulations. You've achieved something very difficult for a good many of us. But my guess is that most writers aren't like that.

Failure stinks. It's probably one of the worst feelings in the world. Emotional pain is actually shown to activate the same brain regions as physical pain. 

Don't let people tell you what to feel and what not to. Don't let people say that it's not a personal rejection. That you shouldn't be upset. That you should move past this.

Cry. Or write a rage poem. Or cry while you're writing a rage poem. If it sucks, you can rip it up afterward. If it doesn't stink, you can let it sit until you're emotionally stable enough to look back and edit. (And then maybe submit again…aka set yourself up for more rejection. Oh, the horror.) Eat chocolate. Watch cat videos. Do whatever coping mechanism helps you destress.

And then once you've allowed yourself to run the gamut of emotions, once you've gone through the day moping and weeping and annoying the heck out of whoever lives with you, pause.

Think about your wonderful submission going through that editorial pipeline. Think about how somebody read that piece, maybe even several somebodies. Think about how your piece took up time in their lives. How, even if only for a second, it changed them in some way.

True, it could have been in a bad way. Maybe they read it and were like, "This piece is trash" and rejected it as soon as they skimmed it. But you have no idea what they did. Maybe somebody read it and thought, "Hey, this is good" but they weren't high enough up the editorial pipeline to have any influence. Or maybe they reflected back on their own writing. Maybe they thought about the times they wrote like you, too, and the times they got rejected, too, and they were sorry when they had to make the final decision. Because the editor on the other side is a human. And humans are swayed by all sorts of mysterious powers to make their choices.

If you get anything out of this, it's that you should always write to leave the audience with something. So even if an editor thinks your piece is an utter garbage dump (which I highly doubt they will), they'll at least come away knowing more than they did before. And that means the piece will stick in their head. And maybe one day they'll pick it up again and think, "Hey, this piece is actually not bad. I wish I hadn't rejected it." 

Or maybe one day, you’ll pick up the old piece and realize, “Hey, I write so much better than this now.” That, perhaps, is any writer's ultimate vision of success.


Nichelle Wong is a high school student from the Bay Area. She's participated in two NaNoWriMo challenges and finished exactly one of them. Though she regularly submits to outside writing contests, she's mainly published in her school's literary collections. Aside from writing, she enjoys reading, learning about psychology, and sketching.

Top Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash  

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