Although we often view it as an end goal, getting published is a relatively small part of the battle for success as a writer. The path to publication is made up almost entirely of rejection. The more progress you make toward publication, the more rejection you’ve undoubtedly trudged through.
How do you deal with rejection, even when it seems insurmountable?
Frame it as a step in the process rather than failure.
Each publication is like a single pushpin on a barren world map. It’s one tiny yellow dot on the other side of an ocean. There are so many other places you want to go, but even when you’ve put in the time, you can’t always manage the trip.
But focus on that yellow pushpin, and not the emptiness around it—you’d never get to see the world if you only looked at what you can’t do. The ocean seems daunting until you fly across it.
Every rejection is just one more hour in flight. You can bide the time with a modest, but eclectic selection of films, or a book, or an uncomfortable nap. You will land eventually.
Soon, you’ll get a second pushpin. And a third. And one day, you’ll have seen the world. And remember: as far as publication goes, the only deadlines are what you set for yourself. There’s no rush!
Sure, metaphor is great and all, but here are some actionable steps:
1) Delete those rejection emails right after you read them. Remember—focus on the successes you have, not the failures you’ve invented.
2) Try to find something they’ve published that you think is awful. It’s like when you find out the last person you dated is now seeing someone less attractive than you. Sure, it’s shallow, but you have to keep a sense of humor about this.
3) Keep a record of your publications, or even just your thoughtful rejections that came with positive feedback. Perhaps it could even be a map with pushpins in it. It helps to have an accessible reminder of your achievements.
4) Send it right back out. After a rejection, I’ll often go back to Submittable, or talk to my friends, or search Poets & Writers for more literary journals that might want the piece and I’ll send it right back out. Sometimes to three more places. It keeps me moving forward. And if it comes back with another “no,” well then I start again.