I’m not going to lie to you: getting rejected sucks. Even when you’ve been doing this for over ten years, it still stings. But you don’t have to let this inevitable part of the creative process get you down. Here are my top tips for coping with rejection (even if you’re a sensitive person):
1. Always have options.
You should never put yourself in a position where all your eggs are in one basket, so to speak. Don’t pick a single magazine or journal and only submit there.
It doesn’t make sense to zero in on a single publication—getting published is a numbers game. Find several publications that you’re interested in, and send out multiple submissions.
Important note: Make sure to check if the publications accept simultaneous submissions or not. Only submit the same piece to multiple publications if their guidelines allow it.
2. Never linger too long on a single rejection.
I know—this is a hard one. When you get excited at the idea of being published in a certain magazine or journal, it can feel crushing when they reject your work. But there is no point in obsessing over a single rejection.
What to do instead? Put in the legwork to get published in the future. If the editors gave you feedback on your submission, then read it carefully. If not, re-read your submission and see what you could have improved.
When that publication has another call for submissions, take that into consideration: What kind of work did they reject? How can I improve my submissions in the future?
Or, maybe, this just wasn’t the right publication for your style of writing. That’s OK, too! Research different journals and magazines that might be better-suited for your work. Submit to them, and most importantly: move on.
In my experience, there have been multiple well-known literary magazines that took me years to get published in. Those publications rejected me for years, but I kept re-submitting anyways.
I took into account what kind of style they liked, and eventually, my work matched up with their preferences. I wouldn’t have those high-profile publishing credits if I’d given up the first time.
3. Practice mindfulness; there’s no use fighting the situation.
One of the most effective tools for dealing with life’s hardships (in my experience), has been mindfulness. The practice of slowing down, doing some type of breathing exercise, and being still, is immensely useful.
As a writer, you can adopt this type of philosophy when getting rejected to help you cope with the unpleasant reality. You can do a meditation, practice some yoga, or simply remind yourself:
This rejection is not the end of the world. It’s happened, and that’s OK. I can’t control the editorial decision that was made. It doesn’t make me a bad writer; it just means that this particular submission didn’t work out. I can accept this and move forward.
Try to remember that there’s no use dwelling on the past. Mindfulness can help you realize that the only moment that matters is the present.
Ask yourself: What can I do to further my career today? What can I do right now to move toward my goal of getting published? Can I work on a new piece of writing? Can I research new publications?
The sooner you live in the present moment, the better off you’ll be.
4. Know that, with each rejection, you’re building resilience.
Every time you get rejected, you get a little bit more comfortable with the experience. After you get used to the process, it will become easier. Yes, it will still be uncomfortable, but you’ll be able to move on quicker.
As somebody who deals with anxiety, I know this first-hand. When I started out as a creative writer, it was so nerve-wracking and upsetting to submit my work to a journal and get rejected. I’m sensitive, so the entire process felt overwhelming.
But now I’m at a point in my career where I’m comfortable with rejection. Obviously, it’s still a bit disappointing, but I don’t focus on it too much. I just move on, keep writing, and keep submitting my work to different publications.