The Writer’s Guide to Learning From & Handling Literary Rejection

Rejection is more dynamic than simply receiving an email from an editor telling you ‘Your work is not a good fit for us at this time’.  Rejection is also often self-inflicted. If you are used to receiving flash floods of comments and likes on your writing, suddenly receiving a reduced number can be equally demoralizing and even lead to writer’s block. My first thoughts after a rejection, self-inflicted or not, usually leave me dejected and demoralized. Why write if no one wants or likes my writing?

I went through a brief bout of disappointment and self-inflicted rejection when I wrote Lioness. I was convinced the haiku would connect with most of the people who interact with me. When it did not immediately invite connection, failure was the first thought that sprang to mind. However, over the next week, I saw it proved that it takes time for some writing to find the right eyes.

I would not be a writer if I shied away from every rocky road in my path. I am a writer because I write. This does not mean rejection is painless; it still stings. For me, the sting is not an invitation to develop a fear of bees; it is a calling to befriend the hive.

While I will be using my experience submitting poetry, prose, and short stories to literary outlets, I am hopeful this advice will apply as well to bloggers exploring guest posting opportunities and even freelancers querying their creative ideas.

As a creative who has been (and still is) rejected at many intersections along the road of my writing journey, here I share what I do to move on and how I ultimately learn from rejection.

  • Accept it. First off, accept the way you feel. It is natural to feel let down, irritated, frustrated, or even angry after a rejection, especially if you put a lot of energy and passion into trying to nail the submission. Feel what you feel and let your emotions run their course. You do not want to re-enter the submitting world with pent-up feelings.
  • Study. Return to the journal or magazine that rejected your work. Look again at their submission guidelines and read some of the journal’s previous publications. Now go back and read your submission. Perhaps you can identify why it was rejected by looking at your writing in context and with honest eyes.
  • Try, try again. Write a new piece of poetry or recycle/upcycle an existing piece of writing and submit again to the same publication, using what you have learned from your rejection study to rectify any mistakes you made the last time.
    • Pro Tip: Wait at least a few weeks before resubmitting, unless you are responding to a prompt or submission call with a closing deadline. If you are responding to a call for submissions for the second time, also make sure the guidelines allow multiple submissions from the same author. Allowing time to elapse before resubmitting gives editors the chance to view your work more impartially as opposed to having your previously rejected writing immediately come to their mind.

Related: The Poet’s Guide To Successfully Submitting Poetry Online

  • Move on. Find the right home for your writing by moving onward in search of new poetic journals or consider submitting your rejected poem to a journal you have work published with, if you think the publication is a good home for your piece. You cannot nail the judgement of where your poem best belongs every time so
  • Take risks. You have little to nothing to lose if you submit to a place you deem unapproachable, or if you go out on a limb and share a weird piece of writing, so do it! You may hit upon something you, and others, love.
  • Love it. Yes, love what you do. The love you have for your writing and the passion you put into every word will always be there for you. Your love of writing is what will keep you coming back, no matter how many rejections or lack of likes you receive in the circles of your literary community. It is not about the numbers; it is about your creative expression and staying true to your voice.

Rejection and writer’s block are all part of the writing process. Learn to respect a ‘no’ as much as you welcome a ‘yes’. After all, it is not possible to fit into every writing community. Find the places where you belong and thrive.

What are your top tips for handling rejection in the writing world? Tell me below!

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29 thoughts on “The Writer’s Guide to Learning From & Handling Literary Rejection

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  1. This post resonates so much with me, Jaya. Sometimes what I write (on my blog or for one of my clients) really takes off but on other occasions, it’s just crickets. And I don’t always know why! What I’ve learned is to try my best not to take it personally. It’s not always to do with the quality of the writing, it can be simply that sometimes things chime with people and sometimes they don’t 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love your thoughts on this, Lisa! Sometimes something clicks and sometimes not, but ultimately you wrote it because you believe in it and that is what counts. 🙂

      Like

  2. Some great tips here, and they’re especially handy for me as a budding content writer. Rejection is bound to come but I’m not the best at handling it, so I’m glad I came across this post. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It such a heartfelt article. Rejections bring disappointments, but the way you have motivated yourself and learned from them is remarkable. You are right, the rejections not always happened because the material is not good, but the reasons may vary from submission to submission.

    Thanks for sharing your writer’s journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My experience is extremely short, so that I can’t have a particular kind of reaction yet.
    Everything is still a gift I wouldn’t have imagined for me.
    But I will take into consideration your tips and your suggestions so that I will face stronger (I hope) my future failures.
    Thank You so much DEAR.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Accepting that rejection is a part of life that can eventually lead to good things happening is a hard pill to swallow, thanks for sharing the tips! Not knowing the (real) reason is usually the hardest for me but I try to not take it personally :- )

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I feel that rejection in writing is pretty tame when it comes to being rejected in anything else in life. Or maybe my experience with harsh editors have put things in better perspective for me. I actually dread the rewriting part of the entire process much more than receiving a rejection, lol. Maybe I have weird priorities in writing.

    Anyway, great post and wonderful tips for those who might be facing trouble in this part of the writing journey!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think I value the comments on my post more than my actual page views as it’s something that’s permanently there. However, it does suck when you get less than you used to and it also knocks my motivation to have to join comment threads to get those comments in the first place. A no win situation for me really 😕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 😊 Comment threads have their ups and downs, but it is always awesome to forge connections that go beyond a two-way relationship.
      Love your thoughts on comments; when people take the time to say something about anything I have written, it is a win for me. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Rejection is in every day in many different ways. I like what you shared and how to approach it. Being able to handle one is so important! Thank you for the thoughtful post!

    Liked by 2 people

  9. important post. writing is an incredible universe that, at first, is a lonely and intense process. when winning the world, by whatever means, it becomes the reader’s and especially his reading. then, whether or not to be recognized should be a basic assumption of the writer. sometimes it takes time for the reader to really absorb the content. the basic issue is changing the means of publication. we just stay with blogs. the dynamics of access to posts are multiple and often there are many more likes than readings. I think that it is still of the essence of the medium, of a way of searching the blogs for other contents that are not deeper readings. it is not critical to bloggers, but to a system that induces other “cultural” values ​​that are not what we seek. however, I consider it important to post, not to give up at any time and correct directions if deemed necessary. the more literature the greater the critical sense and awareness of people. thank you very much for posting a very important subject.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Rejection is a part of life as a whole, we aren’t a one size fits all, something I learned as I grew older. There are people out there who will see and feel through my eyes and understand. Great post Jaya about an issue that makes us fragile sometimes and how to deal with it. 😊💙

    Liked by 3 people

  11. This really resonates with my Jaya, because I view the experience from a different perspective now I’m in the process of publishing an anthology. I wished I’d kept the rejection letters I had trashed in shame after receiving them, because I had to make the decision to reject some submissions I received. My decision as an editor was not based on whether I thought the submission was ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ but rather whether it fit my vision for the anthology as a whole. I am hoping I will take my own rejections better going forward in the light of what I’ve learned!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Being on the other side of the literary rejection process, Ingrid, is something I never even thought about! I love getting a look at your side of the story; saying ‘no’ to something because it does not fit into a vision as opposed to judging the quality of a piece is a whole new way to look at this. Being on both sides too is a wonderful way to understand the ‘no’s’ you receive too.
      Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

      Liked by 3 people

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