Don’t take anything personally. Nothings others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” - Don Miguel Ruiz

You send out your story, your poem, the novel you spent four years writing. And then you wait. You remind yourself that waiting is the hardest part – that is until the rejection letters start showing up in your mailbox. No one has to tell you rejection is a fact of life for writers (and everyone else, for that matter). But oh, how it toys with our self-esteem and our writing.

You are in good company

To ease the pain a bit, it’s nice to note that even famous writers know the sting of rejection:

  • Stephen King’s “Carrie” was rejected numerous (30?) times.

  • The Help,” by Kathryn Stockett, was rejected 60 times.

  • John Grisham’s “A Time to Kill” was rejected by 16 agents and numerous publishers.

  • Gertrude Stein sent her work out for 22 years before her first poem was accepted.

  • Harry Potter,” by J.K. Rowling, was rejected dozens of times.

The list goes on and on. You can find numerous examples of famous rejections online.

Keeping your self-esteem intact

Lisa Alther, author of five novels, notes, “I wrote for twelve years and collected 250 rejection slips before getting any fiction published, so I guess outside reinforcement isn’t all that important to me.”

I like her style, but unfortunately, we all don’t have her self-confidence. But there is help for the rest of us. Some of the best advice I have found for dealing with rejection as an artist (yes, we writers are artists) comes from Eric Maisel. In his book, “Toxic Criticism,” he offers ways to handle criticism and rejection by:

  • Deciding your path matters and taking responsibility for living by your principles.

  • Appraising the criticism or rejection to see if it is worth paying attention to, fair or not fair, or important. And if it is worth addressing, you must decide how to appropriately respond.

  • Understanding your attitude is under your control.

  • Retaining control of your self-talk.

  • Thinking the right thoughts and being the right “me” as you deal with this calamity.

  • Taking care of your life, such as eating right, making no big changes, and tackling your writing life in concrete, active ways.

None of us like to be rejected, but we can cope with it. First we face it, then we address it, and by doing so, we can keep ourselves sane through the process.

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