Dealing With Rejection and Darkness as a Writer

“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

- Rocky Balboa

It’s funny I use a quote from a fictional character to describe writing and dealing with rejection. Guess what, like boxing, you’re gonna get hit in this business. Sometimes, hard. I have a day job as a technical writer, and I write freelance on the side. I have written magazine articles, short stories, SOPs, and a lot in between, and I am writing my first novel. And yes, I have heard the word “no” a lot.

Why do folks say no? Well, there’s a lot of reasons. Maybe you’re not quite there as a writer, yet. Maybe your story needs work. Maybe you shouldn’t have written a submission on four hours sleep with a diet of cold NYC pizza and hair of the dog (I did that, and I will never do it again).

Whatever the reason, I would tell folks in this business, stay hungry. Writers are an odd mix, some of us are as tough as nails and have the scars to prove it. Some of us front it well, but are empathic to a point of driving those around us mad. (Down in front, Jason). I take constructive criticism well, but I admit, I often have doubts about my own talent as a writer. I look at other folks, and I am as quick to praise them as I am to criticize my own work.

So, to new writers, I would say this: STOP. Don’t do that to excess. If you are, there might be some things going on that have nothing to do with writing. Anne McCaffrey had a lot to say about that, so I will default to her statements on the subject, but the number one rule in this business? Take care of yourself, and do not let the introspection become depression. And if it does, talk to someone.

But back to the rejection part. You will get rejection. You will get it as sure as rain will fall in your lifetime. You may sell 30+ books and be as rich as Steven King, and I bet some of your book ideas will still meet with “Um, nope, not doing that.” The truth is, as much as we like making money at this, we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we’re the modern version of the guys who used to sit by the fire and tell the stories to the other cavemen after a hunt. We do it because even through all of it, we feel the need to tell the stories locked in our heads.

Me, I got tons of stories. Some are born of a childhood in the shadow of the tail end of the Cold War. Some are born of more recent stuff. Some are just plain stuff I want to read. Some, well, are just things I am trying to write to wrap my own head around what happened in a phase of my life.

What I would tell you is? Do not take the rejections as something that should discourage you. Frankly, they should make you hungry. Clubber Lang in Rocky III hungry. You want that novel, you want that story, and you want to make it to the brass ring: A place on a store shelf. You don’t care about the long hours, the rewrites (and any author who gets it right on the first draft is to me, not an author, because it may be grammatically correct, but I bet it’s a pretty flat story). Post the rejection notices on your wall, learn from them. Don’t let them get you depressed. Say to yourself; they passed on me, ok, I will sharpen my writing claws and do better next time.

And more importantly? Do better next time.

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