I face rejection a lot — hell, I’m an aspiring writer. Rejections by agents, producers, publishers, anybody who claims not to have time to read your work, and so on. If we are scared of rejection, we can never be successful. So I took some time recently to think about how I’m handling rejection, rather than burying my head in repeated sorrows.
1) Every ‘No’ Brings You Closer to a ‘Yes’
Logically, this might be true, if you believe you will eventually reach a Yes. But more to the point, every No fuels your resilience. Every rejection is motivation to fight back and pursue your dream. It is also a chance to reassess, to strategise, to plan — get creative and try new ways of breaking in and pursuing your vision.
2) The Criticism Is Not Personal
We can’t control how others will perceive our work, but even if they do perceive it as rubbish, that’s their review not ours. And at any rate, this is not a reflection of your self-worth, which I hope is greater than being a writer or an artist and more like being a humble and decent human being. I realise that many of us have a hard time separating work from our identity, especially when we have poured months and years of our own emotions and experiences into the material. This carries us onto my next point —
3) The Buddhist Approach
Glorious non-attachment. Liberate your emotions from your work. Of course still be passionate about your work, because you are serving an important cause, but remember that the cause is bigger than you and your enthusiasm. Your story might be received by millions of people, or billions, so how is that a reflection of your own ego — why become attached to the work? Let your audience make the attachments and buy more tickets or book copies. And if you never reach an audience because you are never published, then even better, you are free to go and live on a mountaintop instead.
Rejection is also an opportunity to continuously improve your craft, enhance your skills. Even if you disagree with the notes or the radio silence, you can reevaluate your approach, change tactics, alter the pitch to whatever new inspiration you muster. Or just analyse your work in more depth, find new ways to tweak it into something undeniably good. Hone your writer’s voice, which is inseparable from craft.
Try integrating these four approaches next time you get stung and let me know how it goes.