Thick-skinned

This Australian gumtree has the right idea

Writing, like any creative activity, can only be approached with the skin of a rhino. After all, there are plenty of pitfalls to doge and obstacles to overcome; you have to risk upsetting your friends and family as you shut yourself away for unfathomable amounts of time, living in your own head while you create a mish-mash of words you hope someone else will want to read. There’s no payment (unless you’ve a publishing deal), no right way to go about it (but lots of contradictory guidelines) and every time you send out a submission/revised draft, you risk the ultimate slap in the face; rejection.

But, as many successful authors will tell you, it’s all part of the writing process. And rejection doesn’t have to be such a bad thing; it’s all depends on how you deal with it. I received an excellent piece of advice from @inkwellHQ a few weeks ago:

“Remember Beckett: Every time we fail, we fail better.”

What excellent words to bestow upon a fellow writer; and how true! So, it got me thinking; if we’re all in the same situation, there’s got to be a million coping strategies out there that we can all share. Here’s a few thoughts of my own, to start us off.

  1. Rejection doesn’t have to mean you’re a bad writer; sometimes your piece won’t fit with what the publisher/magazine wanted. Research the typical content, submissions requests, competition judges before submitting.
  2. Actually listen to/read all feedback you receive – it’s usually not as bad as you think. It’s easy to fuse our own thoughts/disappointment with the actual advice and make things seem more bleak.
  3. Take the useful bits of constructive criticism and feed them into your work; this will help to improve it.
  4. Put the novel/short story/poem you submitted away for a week or two – even a month or a year – and then revisit it when you can face it. You’ll see the work in a whole new light and any future drafts will be much better.

These are just a few ideas which I hope might help. I might even have to pop back and remind myself of these ideals when the next rejection slip comes in.

So, how do you stay thick skinned and turn rejection into something positive?

Not quite a rhino, but I wouldn't want to upset him

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5 thoughts on “Thick-skinned

  1. Susan says:

    I find the most annoying rejections are the nearly ones – the ones where you’re long listed or short listed for something and go far enough up the list to look mighty impressive – but not enough to actually win anything or get published anywhere.

    Then again last year I placed a story I wrote in 2002-3 – nine years – if you know a story is good, keep believing in it!

    • ERMurray says:

      The ‘almosts’ are certainly frustrating; but, like you say, it’s definitely a sign to keep going. Fair play to you for having faith in your story and getting it published nine years later.

      Did you do further edits before you submitted?

      I often leave things I think are ‘finished’, only to find glaring mistakes/necessary improvements when I visit them again later. Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t so impatient. Think I’ll take a leaf out of your book.

  2. Susan says:

    I did do quite a few mods but there came a point where I just stopped. With this story, I had hardly touched it for years. I saw that EQMM were open to online submissions for the first time (I first found this out via reading a fight on the internet, which just shows they’re not always a waste of time) and sent it in – might as well, since it’s there. You could have knocked me down with a feather when I got an acceptance notice from them.

    • ERMurray says:

      That’s such an encouraging story. I think we often look at the feedback we get and automatically think we’ve done everything wrong, when in fact, editorial tastes do have a part to play. Of course, we need to take notice of advice given – it’s invaluable – but sometimes, we have to have faith in our own work…and be ready to submit it again, no matter how much time has lapsed.

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