After Rejection

So on Monday we talked about rejection: when something you wanted to do–in this case, a book you wanted to write, but it could be a show you tried to enter or an article you submitted–wasn’t accepted. This is an experience I’ve had more times than I can count in the decades I’ve been writing and submitting ideas. More times than most people can even imagine: that many rejections would make most people give up and go do something else, and that’s what I’m here for: to tell you not to go there.


Having your proposal rejected hurts, and there’s no pretending it doesn’t. It’s a part of you, and no matter how you steel yourself for hearing that someone doesn’t think it’s good enough, it’s not a fabulous thing. OK, so insert here various platitudes about “taking some time to lick your wounds” and “pick yourself up and dust yourself off.” Then let’s take a look at what you’re going to do next.


First of all, let’s make sure you know what the rejection really meant. Go back over it, and ask the editor for clarification if you’re not sure. I have talked to people whose proposal was rejected who just assumed that that was it: it was over, bad idea, move on. Only later did they discover that it wasn’t a rejection but a request for something else: tweaking of the idea, a better explanation of what they had in mind, some adjustments made to accommodate current trends. I’ve talked to editors who’ve asked for revisions only to have the would-be author never get back in touch. So before you toss the whole idea and crawl off somewhere to wallow in self-pity, make sure you understand why your proposal/submission was turned down. There’s a decent chance that you, working with the editor, can make it work.


Or maybe it’s just not the right idea for right now. Maybe you proposed a book on jewelry making, and jewelry books just haven’t been selling very well. But maybe you also have an idea for a book on art journaling that you’ve been thinking about for a couple years. And maybe art journaling is The Next Big Thing and maybe your editor would LOVE your ideas for a book about your own style of art journaling. It doesn’t hurt to ask. If you have more than one area of expertise, find out which one might work for you right now.


Or maybe there’s not going to be a chance for you to write a book any time soon, for whatever reason, but what about the ideas you captured in your proposal: does that look like the outline for a six-week workshop? Or do those samples you so carefully created and photographed–are those the perfect beginning of a new series? Or maybe a submission to a local art fair? Maybe now is the time to open an Etsy shop with those half-dozen projects, using them as the basis for new shop.


Maybe your proposal wasn’t meaty enough for a whole book but would be perfect as a how-to article for a magazine–maybe even a series of articles. Getting your work out there in a magazine is a great way to begin building a portfolio, something that can only be a good thing if you still want to write a book in the future.


Maybe the editor will suggest you need to start working on building a better platform–your blog and/or website, the ways you let people get to know your work and what you’re doing. This might be the time to use those sample photos to introduce your series or offer some video tutorials that give you a chance to introduce yourself online. If you don’t have a blog or website, this is a good time to think about creating one.

In short, don’t fall into either/or thinking: either I get to write this book or I don’t get to do anything at all. There are all kinds of other places you can go–places that might turn out to be so amazing that you can’t believe they weren’t your destination all along.

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Ricë is the author of Living the Creative Life, Creative Time and Space, and Destination Creativity. She also blogs at The Voodoo Cafe.


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