Good news! If your writing has been rejected multiple times by magazine editors, book publishers and literary agents, then you’re a real writer. You’re in the game! The bad news is that you may feel too discouraged, disappointed and disheartened to keep writing. You’re tempted to kick yourself out of the game.
When I first started freelance writing and blogging 10 years ago, I almost immediately discovered the most important personality trait of a successful writer: thick-skinned-ness. Making a living as a writer — or even just on a novel, autobiography or poetry part-time — requires writers to develop the “skin of a rhino.” Being thick-skinned means that you’ve learned how to keep writing after multiple rejections.
Recently I discovered five questions that represent the “core needs” every writer has. No matter how many times writers get rejected — or how comfortable writers are when editors, publishers and agents reject their work — they need to reroot themselves. These questions are the tools all writers need to firmly plant themselves in their identity and keep writing despite multiple rejections. These questions have the power to change how you see yourself as a writer, which will change how you respond to the rejection letters.
I’m not going to tell you to look on the bright side of getting rejected multiple times, or that all you need is to believe in yourself. I won’t promise you that one day your book, article or poetry will be published, or that you’ll earn a living as a freelance writer. Nor will I give you a list of ways to stop feeling sorry for yourself because you decided you’ve already failed as a writer. Instead, these five questions will give you strength, courage and motivation to keep writing despite multiple rejection letters. Your answers will change how you think and feel about yourself as a writer. And that, in turn, will help you grow forward into a fresh new season of your writing life.
I found these five “core needs” in a women’s magazine. The article was written by a Christian psychologist whose goal was to help parents raise strong, confident children. These core needs are exactly what writers need to be strong and confident no matter how many publishers, editors and agents reject their work. As soon as I saw those core needs I realized they were exactly what writers who deal with pushback and criticism, both externally and internally, need in order to keep writing.
How to Keep Writing After Multiple Rejection Letters
These five questions are based on your core needs as a writer. If you’ve been rejected multiple times you know how painful and lonely it is to share your thoughts and feelings, only to be ignored, criticized, or deemed unworthy. These questions will motivate you to think about your identity as a writer, which will ground and feed your writing.
When you’re considering these questions, don’t underestimate the importance of answering in writing. It may seem ironic to say this to a writer, but handwriting your thoughts and emotions is more powerful than simply thinking about or typing your responses. Writing by hand (with pen and paper) forces you to slow down and catch up to your thoughts. Most of the time you don’t even know what you think or how you feel about being rejected multiple times until you write it down.
You’re also welcome to share your thoughts in the comments section below. These “core needs” questions for writers are personal, but the answers don’t have to be private.
1. You need aptitude — what type of writing are you good at?
How are your skills as a writer improving? I believe the best way to hone your writing skills is to rewrite your old stories, articles, poems, blog posts. Now that I have a pool of thousands of She Blossoms blog posts and years of writing experience, I can literally see how my writing has changed. I often return to my blog posts and articles from years ago. I no longer cringe at my poor writing, misguided beliefs, and selfish motivation for blogging. I simply notice how and what I wrote then, and rewrite to reflect who I am today.
If you want to keep writing after multiple rejection letters, you need to improve your skills. What type of writing do you love? What type of writing do you do well? Just as importantly, how are you using your strengths to improve your little pocket of the world? Maybe the letters of rejection from editors, publishers and agents hit your self-esteem hard. That’s okay; it’s normal to feel disheartened and disappointed when writing professionals reject your writing. But if those publishers, editors and agents have the power to control how you feel about yourself as a writer, then you’ve given your power away.
2. You need self-identity — who are you as a writer?
I’m a much different writer today than I was when I started freelancing a decade ago. It took the publication of my first book — Growing Forward When You Can’t Go Back — and years of earning a full-time living as a blogger to convince me that I really am a writer. I didn’t think I was good enough to call myself a writer even though I wrote every day for hours. I was a writer, but it took years of learning how to keep writing after multiple rejection letters to show me what it takes to be a real writer. A real writer keeps writing no matter who rejects her work. A real writer keeps learning and growing forward in her skills, practices, habits and goals. And, a real writer doesn’t believe the lie that one, or two, or even a dozen published books changes her identity and makes her more worthy or lovable than who God created her to be.
If you want to keep writing no matter how many rejection letters you get, then you have to know who you are as a writer. And your identity as as writer cannot and should never depend on rejection letters from publishers, editors or agents! Who were you as a writer before you got those rejection letters? How do rejections from editors or publishers change how you see your writing? Your self? One of the most important things to remember is that getting rejection letters means you are actively sharing your work, and that your writing is worth responding to. Those two things themselves make you a “real” writer.
3. You need security — who can you trust?
This core need isn’t just about learning how to keep writing after getting multiple rejection letters. Rather, it’s about nurturing trusting relationships with friends and family members for all seasons of your life. Learning who you can trust is especially important when you’re wounded because your writing was rejected. Rejection is painful — emotionally and physically. A rejection letter has a negative physical effect on your body. A rejection letter also hurts your heart and soul. Writing a memoir that contains your life history is an act of faith and courage; a rejection letter is traumatic, not to mention insulting and discouraging.
Find kindred spirits that you can depend on. They don’t need to be fellow writers. You don’t need long discussions about how to stay motivated to keep writing. You just need to be loved and know that you can trust your friends or family to listen and support you. Are you honest with them; do you share what you really think and feel about being rejected as a writer? If you feel alone and unsupported, look for ways to unite with kindred spirits. Find people who have dreams, goals, ideas to pursue.
4. You need belonging — who accepts you as a writer?
Feeling like you belong is especially important for writers who work in isolation. Learning how to keep writing despite multiple rejection letters requires you to feel like you belong somewhere. This is different than feeling connected to people you can trust. Belonging to a writer’s group, for instance, isn’t the same as feeling loved by friends and family you trust with your life.
You need to know that people believe in you and accept you for you are as a writer. This doesn’t mean they think your writing is perfect (it isn’t) or that you’re the best writer in the world (you aren’t!). Belonging simply means you can take rejection letter after rejection letter to them, and still be accepted and valued for the writer you are. Belonging to a group of writers or dreams who truly accept you will be honest with you. They’ll help you see the reality of your writing, and even the truth in multiple rejection letters. Their acceptance will take the sting out of the rejection letters, which will help you keep writing.
5. You need purpose as a writer — why are you alive?
A few of my favorite questions: what are we doing here, why were we created, who are we, and where are we going? I used to struggle with these questions a lot. I still do, but much less now. Now, my self-identity is built on Jesus Christ. I not only believe in God, I follow Jesus and try to spend every day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. God gives my life meaning…and more and more I realize the world needs me to empty myself into my writing. That’s my purpose as a writer.
What is your purpose as a writer? This has a direct effect on how you respond to rejection letters, no matter how many you get. If you no longer know what you think or believe about yourself as a writer, now is the time to re-evaluate your plans. You want to be a writer; perhaps God even planted stories and books and articles and poems in your heart! Learning how to deal with multiple rejection letters and still want to keep writing is the key to a future you can’t even imagine!
How you respond to multiple letters of rejection depends on who you rely on to keep writing. Who is walking with you? Who do you rely on for the strength, courage, motivation and inspiration you need to keep writing? Look up and meet the gaze of God. He’ll show you the way.
Your big and little comments are welcome below.
With His love,
P.S. Do you fear yet another rejection letter from a publisher? Perhaps you’re too scared or anxious to even send a query letter or book proposal. Read 10 Tips for Dealing With Rejection as a Writer.