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Handling Rejection and Criticism

August 19, 2009

“Rejection is the fuel that fires my resolve to prove them wrong”.

Judy Bagshaw

You know you have matured as a writer when you are given feedback, you don’t immediately consider either suicide or homicide. Last week  Dale followed on with my article on criticism with a very important article of his own by looking at how to ensure that whatever you may give as feedback is received in a supportive and well meaning way. As he said, the main reason we seek feedback is to help us improve our writing; but it is also vital that the feedback is written in a way that supports growth, rather than simply tearing down anothers work for the sake of it.

Writing samples: Parker 75

Its a whole level of trust and putting the ego aside to be able to give quality and considered criticism. Its another level again to receive feedback , allow it to settle and then look at it for the value it contains without becoming defensive or angry.

The important thing to remember with feedback is that it is one persons view – just as your view is your own. Whether the feedback is from a friend, another author, an editor or a publisher; this perspective is important to remember. Its easy to fall in love with your own words – for after all – you birthed them, nurtured them and have protected them – until the virtual ‘red pen’ of the critic falls upon them. Its easy to get too close to your work – if you don’t – then the heart and passion falls away from the words… so never apologize for that. Just because your work doesn’t suit one person, or fit the mould of one magazine or publishing house, does not necessarily mean that it will not suit another. Self Confidence is the armour in which the writer must garb themselves in when sending out and receiving feedback.

For many writers, getting any sort of criticism other than the pithy “nice work!” or “I liked it.” style comments lead to the path of feelings of rejection; one of the greatest human fears and can cause immeasurable damage to our personality and to your life if it is dwelt upon.

Gaining feedback which may appear to be harsh can be a gift in a number of ways. So before you sharpen your knives (metaphorically speaking) take some time to find the lessons or messages you are given. It may allow time to reflect and think of new perspectives or shine on a new path for inner learning.

Remember the reason why you write and be clear with your intention for your finished pieces. If you write because you are compelled to share a message or simply because you enjoy it and have no future visions of it being published, then rejection can’t be a problem. If, however, you intend on becoming a published writer in a specific genre or arena, listen carefully to the feedback you are given from those who have trodden the path beforehand. This does not mean that those people are any more ‘right’ with their opinions than you are. Again, it is their opinion, developed over time and experience and focused on what their outcomes are – which may or may not suit yours.

The next step is to scrutinize your “rejected” piece of work in an objective manner, along with the feedback. If your manuscript needs developing with more time and work, then invest what is required.

If after this, you still feel a dark hole slowly eating your soul away:

  • Acknowledge what exactly has made you feel rejected. Your tools of trade are words – so be specific about this. If it is appropriate, contact the person and ask for more clarification.
  • Accept that the feedback you were given was based on what they thought of the piece of work you submitted, and not a rejection of you personally.
  • Let go of any resentments held against whoever gave the feedback, accept that they have their own opinions on your work – which you may not agree with and move on. Your resentment towards them won’t affect them, only you, so don’t bother with it and move on.
  • In all things – you can choose to agree or disagree with someone’s point of view – just as you can choose the meaning you will then place upon that feedback with regards to your past and future work as a writer.
  • The most important thing is to stay in motion – if you stop.. you will quite literally stop. The more you write, gain critiques, and sift through the feedback for the gold and utilize it; the better you will become as a writer.

Particularly for new writers just learning the craft, we need to be open and respectful to the wisdom of those who have traveled the path before us. Once you are published and you gather fame in your field, it is invariable that you will attract all types of feedback, from the fan-mail to the hate-mail. Your work will be constantly judged by publishers, editors, readers, reviewers and educationalists. Over your career as a writer, you will face countless types of rejection, and at the end of the day; you need to deal with it. Hopefully; you will learn and grow from it as well.

Image by churl via Flickr

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Annie Evett is strangely looking forward to piles of hate-mail when she becomes famous… at least it will mean she has touched a societal nerve. … but don’t hate me just yet ( *hand held melodramatically on forehead*) Catch her growing amount of websites and blogs here
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  1. August 19, 2009 8:02 am

    I read somewhere ( and I do try not to harp on about this writer….) Stephanie Meyer sent her first manuscript to 15 editors. Nine rejected it, five didn’t reply at all, and ONE wanted to talk to her. .. and well – the rest is history. I am certain Harry Potter nearly ended up in the bin after all the rejection letters Rowling received too.
    Anyway – the point is – no matter what a run away success the manuscript or story may eventually turn out to be, there is always someone in the industry who doesn’t like it and will turn it down.

    We just need to develop thicker hides.. and get on with what we do best…create wonderful storylines.

  2. janflora permalink
    August 19, 2009 6:05 pm

    Thank you, Annie, this is the perfect message for me as I begin the submission process again…i have to admit that i gave up (temporarily) after a long streak of rejection. And I am definitely the type of human that does not deal with rejection well. But, I still want the acceptance too, so I have to try, try again, right? Thicker hide, on order for fall 🙂

  3. August 20, 2009 1:23 am

    Thanks for this post. It really helped. And in regards to your comment Annie, I guess it’s hard to tell whether or not someone’s disagreeing with you as a matter of opinion or there’s something technically wrong with the piece.

    I guess it’d be a hard one to write an article on and I guess it’s something that you can only work out through practice.

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