Lessons in Rejection

My heart has been breaking all summer. Over problems no parent can solve. About my inability to protect my children — from hurt feelings, from being excluded, frompintip the agony of rejection.

“I’d rather get a hundred rejections than have my child go through this,” I thought.

The sacrifice of a mother? Sure. But being a seasoned veteran of rejection, I also felt I was better equipped to deal with the pain.

After all, I’ve had LOTS of experience with rejection as a writer. And I’ve learned a ton. For example:

1. I learned to temper my expectations. Seven-figure deals, international book tours, movie adaptations — I’ve dreamed them all. But they didn’t happen, and they didn’t happen quickly. And so, my dreams are different now. Simpler. And they motivate me just as much. A career as a writer. My book on a shelf. Spending my days doing what I love most.

2. I learned that rejection gets easier over time. The very first rejection — whether it is the first one ever or the first on a particular submission — is always the hardest, at least for me. I don’t have the world’s thickest skin, but after years in this industry, I’ve had no choice but to toughen up. These days, I (mostly) react to rejection by shrugging and redoubling my efforts on the next book.

3. I learned to see the silver lining in every cloud. Most things are not all bad. In every rejection, we can find something positive to take away. A lesson about craft, perhaps, or information about the market. Maybe even a compliment on which we can focus. In the midst of the overall message – “NO” – these compliment can easily get lost. But as with anything else, the skill of honing in on the positive part, while ignoring the rest of the noise, improves with practice.

4. I learned to have confidence in myself. Writing is so subjective that it is impossible to please everybody. We can’t depend on external sources for validation (even though they are nice to have!) It’s not easy — this believing-in-yourself business. But when you’re faced with the decision of quitting or persevering, and you choose the latter time and time again, you develop that inner core. I’m not saying I’ve perfected the art, but I’m so much better at it today than I was a few years ago. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.

5. I learned why I’m really doing this. It’s not for the money or the recognition. Certainly not because it’s an easy career path. I write because I love it. Because I have stories to tell. Because I feel closest to my true self in my words.

I’ve learned all this and more by being rejected. And so maybe I shouldn’t try to shelter my children from the pain, after all. Maybe the disappointments of today are exactly what they need to prepare themselves for the bigger obstacles of tomorrow.

That doesn’t mean my heart won’t break when my child buries her face in my chest, and her tears soak through my shirt to scorch my skin. But maybe there’s a lesson in that, too.

Please share. What has rejection taught you? What makes your heart break?

35 thoughts on “Lessons in Rejection

  1. I’m really odd when it comes to rejections. Some days it just rolls right off me. I accept it and move on without batting an eyelash. Other days, it’s the most devastating thing ever. Until I go home and Harry is waiting for me, that is. 😉

    1. Kerri, I’m so glad you have Harry! I’m sure looking into that cute face makes everything better!

  2. What I’ve learned is that the rejections don’t suck or hurt any less…but my reaction to them has changed over the years. I give myself one day to grieve and get angry and be as ragey as I want…and then I go right back to the computer and let that frustration motivate me.

    I’ve also learned #5, to the Nth degree. I’ve been beat up by so many random things in publishing–things beyond rejection, rare circumstances that no one could duplicate. I’ve lost awards. I’ve lost sales. I’ve lost publishers. But not once have I ever thought “That’s it! I’m giving up these writing shenanigans!” because I have always been a writer. I always WILL be a writer. I don’t know how to be anything BUT a writer.

    And thanks to all that rejection, now I unequivocally know that about myself.
    My writerness is a badge of pride. 🙂

    1. Princess, I came to that same conclusion about a year or so ago. I used to think about quitting whenever things didn’t go my way, but then I realized that was a waste of time. I’m a writer. It’s not something I do. It’s who I am. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I’ve learned that rejection will *always* be there in some form or another, so it’s good to learn to cope with it. It’s kind of scary to see young people in the workplace who absolutely cannot handle being told they’re wrong in any way. That’s not realistic or productive or healthy and it certainly won’t further their careers. Maybe they didn’t experience *enough* rejection growing up or never learned to handle it? Not sure– but you are looking at rejection in the perfect way IMO– learn from it and let it make you better, stronger, more resilient. And I so feel what you’re saying when it comes to your children- ouch! At least we know they can and will survive it, and our experience with rejection as writers gives us great real-life examples to share with them of how we overcame it. Awesome post Pintip!

    1. So true, Amy. The most insightful thing I’ve heard on the subject comes from a non-writing stranger I met at a party. When I told her I was a writer, she looked amazed and said, “Think about the example you’re setting for your children. Whether or not you succeed, you’re teaching them the importance of following your dream and how to persevere in the face of rejection. That’s priceless.” Up until that moment, I’d never thought of it that way before.

  4. I look at rejection as a learning experience. So many as a child…picked last in sports, not invited to parties…but I figured after awhile the parties were NOT something I needed and the sports…hated anyway.

    Still, it hurts. And it is a part of life that should be explained to every child– how it is bound to happen, what to do about it and how not to be the aggressor in the situation.

    But rejection is also a matter of teaching us how to choose our battles, when to strive for excellence when everyone else says we will fail.

    It builds strength and personal character.

    A good friend of mine told me once, “Will the world stop if not everything goes your way?”

    Okay…My other half still says that HUGS are still the best solution. 🙂

    1. Hugs ARE a great solution, Loni. And why is it that the things that most build strength and personal character have to be the most painful? Like you said, that’s just life, I suppose. Hugs to you, my friend!

  5. Great post, Pintip! Rejections can still get me down, even after all these years. Le sigh. But, like you, I celebrate that my attitude towards rejection has changed significantly since the first one that made me feel like my words weren’t worthy. Now, I’m able to be more objective (I won’t go as far as saying rational) about them and actually read what they’ve said besides that butt-ugly NO. Well, after I allow myself a few moments to mope and listen to Weird Al. 😉

    1. Lol, Bonnie. Notice that I, too, had to qualify my reaction to rejections above. I MOSTLY react in a sensible. Other times, of course, not so much. Such is the nature of that ugly beast. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Wise words, Pintip.

    We can’t ever protect our children – or ourselves – from disappointment. Our job as parents is to provide them with the tools to handle disappointments with grace – the ability to stand up, brush off the dust and take another swing will be their greatest asset.

    We’ve all spent sometime sitting in the dust after falling on our proverbial asses – we’ve failed or been rejected or tried our best and still lost. It’s okay to sit (wallow) in the dust – for an hour or two, maybe even overnight. After that, it’s time to learn from the experience and move forward. It’s called resilience. It’s a learned skill. I think most writers have learned it well.

    1. You’re right, Julie. I think most writers have learned resilience well. We’ve had to, or we still wouldn’t be writers today. The urge to shield our children from hurt is so strong, even as I recognize it’s not the healthiest solution. Thank you for your comment!

  7. Aw, Pintip, my heart goes out to you for trying to protect your child. Rejection makes us all tougher and I guess the bright side is these hurtful people/things will give your child coping skills as an adult. But it’s so hard to see (and read) about it. 🙁

    Rejection generally devastates me, as in fetal-position, but only for a short period. Then I get white-hot angry. That anger makes me stand back up, brush myself off and be a ‘better’ person. If the rejection is writing-related I become even more determined to rewrite/revise/learn craft until I final or win contests. When it (was) a guy rejecting me, my fury would help me exercise that much harder, buy smaller sizes and watch other men line up! Something about “I’ll show you” or cold, calculated revenge over the rejecter I guess, LOL!

    Hugs to you and your family!

    1. Thanks so much. Sarah! Anger is so much more productive than wallowing in rejection. Because then, we will have turned the rejection into something positive, a motivator to do our best. This is the reaction I try for. Doesn’t always work. 🙂 I admire your determined fury!

  8. Great post, Pintip! *Because I feel closest to my true self in my words.* Love this insight! I’ve made my peace with rejection. Sometimes it takes failure and pain to make success sweeter.

    1. 100 percent agree, Lenora. I don’t think I would appreciate my successes as much if they had come easily or quickly. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Your blog post really spoke to me, Pintip! Thanks for taking the time to write it and write it so beautifully and with such a positive vibe. I’ve been experiencing so many of the things you wrote about and it’s good to know I’m not alone. Sending you a big thank you hug 🙂

    1. Hugs to you, Jacqui! Likewise, it’s good to know I’m not alone. That’s one of the reasons why being in this writing community is so wonderful. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  10. I love your reason #5! I don’t think success can be achieved if we write for the wrong reasons.

    Rejections have taught me to trust in my own voice. Because this business is so subjective, I learned through rejections that I couldn’t write how I thought others wanted me to write. I had to write what felt true to me and then find the agent/editor who loved my voice.

    1. Asa, this is such an important lesson, and I only learned it after I tried writing what others wanted me to write. Only then did I understand that I have to write from my heart. Anything else makes it too difficult to withstand the subjectivity of this business. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Hi Pintip! Just reading through your post and all the comments so far, I think we all have a much healthier perspective on the business of rejection than we may have thought. One thing I did pretty quickly was stopped calling the writing rejections by that word. Instead I just call them passes. Because really, that’s all the agent or editor is doing is passing on the project. Not on us as the writer or the heart we put into the story. I also second, third and fourth the idea that it’s okay for our kids to get these little life lessons now so that they are better equipped for their lives as adults.
    Loved your post and your honesty and your outlook. Fishy kisses, fishy sister. xoxo

    1. Carlene, I love that. I’m going to try that from here on out. They’re not rejections, they’re passes. I didn’t use the term “pass” but this is the same idea I was trying to teach my kids – it’s not about you, I told them. If other people are behaving badly, it’s a reflection on them. So fragile that self-esteem, and maybe that’s what I’m really trying to protect. I don’t want to shield them from all hurt and disappointment; I just don’t want it to destroy their sense of self-worth. Thanks for your comment, my fellow mermaid.

    1. Carrie, I’m impressed you are able to separate the two! It’s when the lines blur is when the rejection of my writing hits the hardest. Thanks so much for your comment.

  12. Pintip, love the post! I firmly believe the obstacles and rejections in life are what teach us the greatest lessons–perseverance, compassion, determination…

    Hope all improves for your daughter! Hugs!

    1. Thanks so much, McCall! Agreed, but I wish those lessons didn’t have to be so painful. I guess that’s where the saying comes from — no pain, no gain. Thanks for stopping by!

  13. Fantastic post, Pintip! (and now i want to squeeze your daughter!) As for the big R, well, it HAS gotten easier over time (go #2)! For me, learning to not let others determine the worth of my word has been the biggest lesson. Is it easy? Uh…no. But it’s the ultimate security blanket if you can master it! 🙂

    1. Darcy, can you imagine if every rejection was as painful as that very first one? We’d be such emotional messes! I’m so glad you’ve learned the value of your words, because they’re worth so very much! Thanks for stopping by!

  14. Terrific post, Pintip! Huge {{{hugs}}} to your adorable daughter and her mother. 🙂

    My combined editor and agent rejections over the years number into triple digits. The first 30 or so Rs really made me feel rotten. But I learned to not take the Rs personally, I learned to listen to constructive feedback, and I learned pick myself up off the floor and keep working. My path to publication wasn’t easy — it makes me appreciate what I have!

    1. Thank you, Vanessa! Huge hugs back to you. My R’s also number in the triple digits. 🙂 Your path may not have been easy, but I’m so very glad it intersected with mine!

  15. Pintip,
    Great post. I think my first rejection was the worst because in my heart I EXPECTED great things to happen quickly. lol. Sad, but true.
    I love the “seeing the silver lining” part. It’s hard to see that sometimes, but it’s so true. Take the positive comments and strengthen those aspects and try to look with fresh eyes at the negative to see if it resonates.
    Love Carlene’s idea about calling them “passes” instead of rejections. It’s so true. My daughter didn’t make the sixth-grade cutoff for the Algebra class in school. Even though her score was 86%, and she needed 91% to be accepted in the class, she considered it “failing”. It was heartbreaking. I kept telling her that by anyone else’s standards, that wasn’t failing. It would have been a B. And then I told her that maybe the class wouldn’t have been for her that early.
    And then I wonder the same thing about myself. All the times I wished so much that my book would get published when maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe I still had to hone the craft and make mistakes and learn from them.
    My daughter is taking the class this year. Hopefully she’s ready to master it.
    And hopefully my time is coming too. LOL!

    1. Kim, best of luck to your daughter. I hope she aces the class this year. And I truly believe your time is coming. Soon. Fingers crossed.

  16. Pintip,
    Excellent post, and SO the kind of thing I needed to read about now. 😉 (So sorry it’s taken me this long to do so!)

    I think the part that hit me the most was the note that sometimes certain rejections hurt more, like on a particular project. It’s funny how true that is. Most of the time they don’t bother me that much … and then one day, bam! They sure do! LOL.

    Hugs to you and your daughter. It made me think about how sometimes we treat our books / writing like our children, and it is scary to send them out into the world. This will be my daughter’s first foray into “the big world” with playschool in September. That is, the first time I won’t be there to protect her, watch over her. But we send them out there – just like we continue to write and submit despite the rejection – because we know the outcome and purpose is stronger than that fear, and worth the risk. All the best to you.

    1. Thank you, S.C., and likewise, big hugs to you and your daughter! I remember well that first day releasing your child into the “big world.” Talk about heart breaking. How hard it is to walk away! I’m pretty sure I burst into tears the first time, but with my second child, it was easier. Another parallel with our manuscripts. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck with that first day of playschool !

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