Dealing with failure in a business full of NOs

Choosing the writing life means choosing to put yourself up for rejection over and over again.  Why do we do this?  Are we lunatics better suited to religious practices that involve self-immolation?

I don’t know why.  But it’s hard to get rejected, reviewed, and critiqued day in and day out.  Sometimes I roll with it.  Sometimes I despair.  If you are in the despair phase, here are some places to turn.

Dave Gessner offers us the middle finger approach, which I heartily advocate.

Though I am not particularly proud of it, one way that I respond to being told my work is unwanted is by getting angry, rejecting my rejections… So what do we do with this energy, angry or not?  One thing we can do it write.  Better, sharper stories than before.  We look rejection coldly in the eye and say, “No, that’s not true,” or sometimes “Yes, maybe that’s a little true….I’ve got to get better at that.”  We write regularly, daily, with a calm fury.  We show the bastards.  


In a decidedly more therapeutic vein, agent Rachelle Gardner offers these five suggestions:

  1. Reframe the failure and look at it as simply part of the process.
  2. Accept that any endeavor worth trying will involve some risk and experimentation, and hence, failure.
  3. Use every failure as an opportunity to reassess what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Figure out how to do it better next time.
  4. Realize that if you’re not failing sometimes, you may not be taking enough risks or pushing yourself hard enough.
  5. Just keep getting back up, knowing you’re smarter now than you were before the failure.


Finally, I offer this suggestion.  Remember that you are not alone.  Find your people and commiserate.  Read the worst rejection letters.  Pick up THE WRITERS BOOK OF HOPE by Ralph Keyes.  Join Kristen Lamb and the #myWANA peeps on Twitter.

YOU ARE NOT ALONE.  (I’m there with you in a fetal position, slurping whiskey from a sippy cup and sticking a pen in my eye.)