5 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement and Rejection for Writers

writers muse motivationEven the most talented, creative, brilliant writers won’t go far unless they know how to overcome the discouragement of getting rejection after rejection! Talent and creativity isn’t nearly as important as stick-to-it-iveness.

Here’s what one poet recently said:

“Lately, I’ve been struggling with writer’s block with my poetry,” says M. on my Ask a Question About Writing page. “It’s not that I can’t think of any ideas – it’s more my lack of confidence that’s getting in the way. I have the urge to write, but when I sit down to do it, I just feel defeated and stop after I’ve written a few words. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a few poems of mine published in some online literary journals, but for the past year, it’s been nothing but rejections. I know rejection and envy are familiar to an aspiring writer, but I’m wondering how to get past this discouragement. I’ve been writing and in love with writing since I was in elementary school, but lately I feel like I’m not skilled or talented enough. And yet, part of me doesn’t want to give up. Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.”

The following tips for overcoming discouragement and constant rejection are from my ebook, 73 Ways to Fire Up (or Just Fire) the Muse.  It contains tips from successful freelancers, published authors, journalism professors, and novelists — it’ll give you more motivation to write than you know what to do with!

5 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement and Rejection for Writers

“Fear is one of the biggest threats to success,” says Lucy Adams, author of If Mama Don’t Laugh, It Ain’t Funny. “Sometimes I’m gripped with the thought that the article I’ve written isn’t good enough, or the column I’ve composed is trite and clichéd, or the book manuscript I want to submit will prove I’m a phony. It hurts to be rejected, to be told what I’ve created isn’t good enough. That fear can hold a writer back.”

But wait! There’s more:

“Pretty much every book on writing that I’ve ever read talks about fear,” says writer Kevin Hoffman. “Apparently writers are a pretty scared bunch – we’re scared of failure, scared of success, scared of criticism, rejection. And the writers who truly care about their work are scared of exposing that soft underbelly, the chink in their armor that gets attached to everything they write. Allowing their work to be seen by others makes them vulnerable. Unfortunately, writers can’t medicate fear. It’s always there. All they can do is choose how to react to fear.”

How do you overcome your fears? Adams tells herself that there is “no shame in failure, but there is a lot of shame in never trying.”

You don’t want to look back on your life and see how scared you were. You want to look back and be proud that you tried…no matter what the result.

See past your excuses to your real fears

Kelly Robbins, founder of The Copywriting Institute, thinks writers need to look at their fears directly. “Recognize them for what they are, and be honest with yourself about why you’re not moving forward with your writing goals,” she says. “This can be difficult because we give excuses rather than facing our fears.”

Robbins suggests finishing this sentence: “My fear of succeeding in this writing project is…..” It may help you see the real reasons behind your procrastination. Sometimes when you look into the jaws of the beast, you see it’s toothless.

Pretend you’re not scared

Ready for a quick, easy tip for overcoming discouragement and rejection for writers? Ask yourself this:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” asks Hoffman. “Act like you’re not afraid, and do it.”

He says this simple advice has been crucial in his ability to overcome the fear of the blank page, as well as the dozen other neuroses that plague him. “It’s taken me years to get good at it, but it’s the best tool in the box,” he says. “The mere act of doing usually makes the fear recede in just a few minutes.” Pretend, just for a moment, that rejection or failure isn’t the end of life as you know it.

Stop indulging your fears, discouragements, rejections, dashed dreams

“We writers tend to indulge ourselves; we’re quick to acknowledge each distraction or tiny pain or depressed mood,” says author and freelance writer Randi Minetor. “Much as we’re driven to write, we feel we must be in the mood – as if the clouds should part, the sun should shine and every possible interruption should be silenced.”

Minetor offers this writing advice from a freshman professor at the University of Buffalo: “None of that matters. Write anyway. Don’t think about how you feel or if it’s a perfect time to write or that you have a thousand other things to do. Write anyway. You have nothing to share and nothing to sell if there are no words on the page.”

Remember that rejection isn’t necessarily about you or your writing

“You have to be totally dedicated to your writing,” says writer Leigh Court. “Forget about rejections – they’re a mandatory part of any career. A writer writes. If you feel you’ll keep writing even if you never get published, then you’re a real writer!”

Writing is a business, my friends. A fantastic nonfiction book or novel idea can be unsuitable for a literary agent’s list. A magazine editor could love your article pitch, and put it aside for a future issue and then forget all about it. A book publisher may be enchanted by your book proposal, but not have enough money, time, or resources to publish more than the scheduled book list. There are a gazillion reasons for a rejection from the publishing world – and few that reflect on your ability as a freelancer.

Set up an automatic system for submitting your articles, poetry, manuscripts

“Fear of failure can stop people from submitting their work,” says Francine L. Trevens, dance writer for Art Times Journal and the author of two poetry books. “I used to make a list of about 10 places to send each thing I wrote. The minute it was rejected, I sent it to the next publication on the list. I did this with six or seven stories at once, or dozens of poems, and I found it easier than mulling over where it should go next after I felt rejected when it was returned.”

This automatic system shifts your focus from how you feel to what you can do.

For more tips on overcoming discouragement and rejection for writers, read How to Increase Writing Confidence – Grow the Skin of a Rhino.

If you’re a poet, read Selling Poetry? 5 Ways to Market Your Book of Poems by Cherie Burbach. It’ll inspire you to keep writing!

What do you think, fellow scribes? How do you keep writing despite fear, doubt, and self-criticism?

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12 thoughts on “5 Tips for Overcoming Discouragement and Rejection for Writers”

  1. Thanks for your comments! Aside from learning how to be a better writer, knowning how to overcome the discouragement that comes from rejection is the key to success.

    It takes 25 years to be an overnight success, after all.

  2. Good tips. Often a rejection is not an indication of the quality of your work. Some journals take only 2% of what they get and so they have to turn down a lot of good writing, or your writing style doesn’t fit with the magazine/journal. If you keep submitting, you often eventually luck out.

  3. There will be those looking at rejection as failure. To me, I see it as motivation to improve what I’m doing.

    From rejection, you get some of your best criticisms as to what you are doing wrong. You learn and improve!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. You are absolutely correct. A determined writer should find ways to overcome discouragements and boost his or her confidence. Thanks you the tips you have shared in your article.

  5. This is always a tough one. I put in over an hour to create a crafted email only asking a few questions about the publishing company. I received a simple response: so and so is not accepting submissions at this time. Of course none of the questions were answered.

  6. Great tips. Certainly, it can be quite discouraging at times, but a good writer should use your tips to overcome those discouragement and rejection!

  7. Thanks for sharing these tips for overcoming disappointment and rejection with us, Laurie. I agree that talent and creativity doesn’t matter nearly as much as dedication and perseverance. How many writers have finished books in their desk drawer, too scared to send them out? Most, I bet.

  8. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Hi Megan,

    That’s great – I’m glad to hear that this article had good timing 🙂

    Good for you for sending your past writing! But, the only thing worse than taking risks is NOT taking them. Better to have tried and regretted, then never to have tried at all.

    Let me know how it goes; I’d love to hear how the world responds to your article.


  9. Megan Collins Quinlan

    This post came at a good time for me. I have been spending the past couple of days reading some of my old writing. Those articles and stories which I wrote in the hope they would see the light of day and which never did.

    In most cases I wrote them and then decided they were not good enough to pitch to a magazine.Actually, having reread them and with a few years experience under my belt I realise they are good enough. I just need to be brave enough to send them.

    In fact one of them is going to see the light of day today and I will see what the market thinks of my little article.No harm in trying!

  10. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I also think one of the most important tips is to learn how to enjoy the process of writing, without the goal of getting published.

    Publication is amazing and excellent, don’t get me wrong, but if it’s your primary or only motivation for writing, then your well will run dry if you don’t get published. If, however, your love for writing, your creative spark, or your desire to express yourself is your primary motivation, then you’re less likely to stop writing if you don’t get published.