A few years ago my husband and I were in search of overseas teaching positions. We sent out dozens of inquiries about jobs. In response, we received a variety of rejection emails. Some school didn’t bother replying at all. A few took the time to write a personal letter encouraging us to try back the following year. Others sent out form letters. We did our best to not take the rejections too personal. We didn’t end up finding positions that year, but we continued searching for a good fit and eventually found ourselves on the way to Asia a few years later.
Similar to a job rejection, writers receive various types of literary rejection letters. It is important to know how to interpret them without beating yourself up or letting negative thoughts take over. After reading through each rejection letter and performing your rejection ritual, see if there is any constructive criticism that you can use to enhance your writing. Using this new knowledge to improve your writing can be like attending a workshop and very powerful.
How To Respond To A Rejection Letter
Nathaniel Tower presents rejection letters examples and advice on interpreting them in Ten Levels of Rejection (And What To Do About Them). He says that not all rejection is equal. He suggests doing nothing and not submitting again to the no responses and impersonal form letters. He recommends thanking editors for their time and commentary when they send a personal letter suggesting that you try submitting again.
In Three Notes On Dealing With Literary Rejection the author suggests using literary rejections as a source of motivation to improve and to succeed. He states, “If someone says they’re not interested, fine, seek out someone else who will be and prove to the doubters why they had it wrong. Above all else, you’re writing because it’s who you are, it’s what you do, don’t ever lose sight of that. What other people think can’t change how you feel when doing the work. But rejection is a great source of motivation, to improve, to succeed. Go back and re-assess who you submitted to, see what they’re publishing, learn how to improve your work in-line with where you’d like it to be. Then try again.”
Writer’s Relief offers a great resource for deciphering rejection letters in How To Interpret Rejection Letters From Literary Agents and Editors. They suggest taking the time to analyze any comments offered in the rejection letters and noticing if there are any common threads in them. Joe Hessert, editor of Ardor Literary Magazine, weighs in on interpreting rejection letters from the editor’s perspective. He explains when and why he sends out four types of responses to unsolcited manuscripts. Many form letters sent out are due to an editor’s limited time and not to the quality of the work. This is a unique perspective about the other side of rejection.
Jia Jang wrote Rejection Proof about turning rejection into opportunity. CNN presents 8 tips from Jang’s book in How To Make Rejection Work For You. One valuable tip he offers is to view the pain of rejection like a muscle. As you face more and more rejections your comfort zone expands and you get stronger and stronger.
If my husband and I had given up on our overseas job search because we took the rejections personally we would not be living a rich and adventurous life in Asia. If you know that you are doing what you love and giving it everything you’ve got then keep going. Keep exercising that rejection muscle and turning “Thanks, but no thanks.” into “Oh, hell, YES, please!”