Rejection-Free Writing

Rejection-free writing. Is it possible?

Blogger: Cynthia Ruchti

A writer friend had been working with another writer, coaching him on the craft as he edged toward a publishable manuscript. “I don’t know how to counsel him anymore,” my friend said. “He told me, ‘I just want to get a book published without risking rejection.‘”rejection

Ah, there’s the rub.

Nothing about the writing life–no step along the way–is free from the risk.

Fear of rejection paralyzes otherwise excellent writers.

It keeps great books locked away from the eyes of the reading public.

Rejection-phobia imprisons potential.

But who in their “write” mind would intentionally subject themselves to the possibility?

Why risk it?rejection prone

Risk rejection to grow as a writer.

A writer whose growth is stunted will find his or her career is, too.

Risk rejection to gain valuable feedback.

Critiques and edits are not rejections, despite our human tendency to label them that way. Fear can prevent us from showing our work to the very people who can help us minimize the risk of rejection by improving our work.

Risk rejection to mature.

A writer whose skills grow but character doesn’t is a writer who may–as the Bible says–gain the world and lose his own soul.

rejection dejectionRisk rejection to steel yourself for all the pockets of it scattered along the journey.

The most prolific, successful author still experiences rejection–projects that don’t quite fit, books that don’t do as well as previous successes, readers who find a new favorite author.

Risk rejection because that’s what professionals do.

When agents or writing instructors hear that a writer is rejection-phobic, they know the writer has little hope of moving forward.

rejection cureFear doesn’t have to be a permanent condition. No one runs looking for rejection. But wise writers can learn not to run from it.

Other than practicing rejection repetitions, how have you gained confidence to let others read your work? Critique your writing? Consider your proposal?


Coping with the myth of #rejection-free #writing.


45 Responses

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Such great advice here, Cynthia!

    For me, there are a few reasons I risk rejection and share my writing. First of all, because He has called me to write. Do the things He directs me to write, I share in the way/s in which He leads.

    Secondly, I want to grow in the craft and I cannot do that on my own. Rejection stings, yes, but I’ve learned so much each time.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      That’s the secret. It’s how beekeepers do their job. They protect themselves, move gently, learn the habits of bees, and become resistant to the stings. 🙂

  2. I kind of look at it like this, Cynthia…a baseball player who hits the ball successfully three out of every ten times at bat is considered superb. Four-in-ten is exceptional, and nearly unheard-of over any period of time.
    * And why risk rejection, and failure? Because it’s FUN. Rejection takes the pressure off. A risk-averse mentality is insidious, and will invade other parts of life. Like a corrosive fog, it rusts the joints of audacity and locks the soul into a creaking cage of fear.
    * And the longer you go without a failure, the harder it becomes. It’s like walking a ledge that gets narrower and narrower, with the gnashing jaws of the Monsters of the Imagination drooling beneath.
    * But when you fall, gloriously screwing things up beyond redemption, failed and rejected and ashamed, you find that the monsters are actually waiting to catch you in their velvet paws, and hold you close, drying your tears and pulling silly faces to make you smile, and then laugh. They know, direct from God, that to be human is to try is to fail, and that the Ledge of the Perfect is not only cold and windy…
    * It’s lonely, and we were never meant to be alone, either in our joy, or in our sorrow.

    • Mary Kay Moody says:

      You say it so well, Andrew, that I’m tempted to not even post my thoughts!

      “The Ledge of the Perfect is not only cold and windy…It’s lonely, and we were never meant to be alone, either in our joy, or in our sorrow.” Beautifully said truth.

    • Andrew, it is like the NCAA Basketball team that is 23 – 0. That is a heavy burden to bear, and it is almost a relief when that first defeat comes. Now we are 25 – 1, and we can relax for the remainder of the season.
      – I have a sign on my office wall that reads, “Fail fast. Fail often. Go with what works.”

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      I feel a book brewing in what you just said, Andrew! As a young person, I messed up royally on a few–more than a few–offeratory numbers at church. And survived. Then I botched it a few times behind the microphone as a speaker. And survived. In fact, the audience warmed to me because I was sooo human. And when I let go of the FEAR of failure, I became a better singer and a better speaker. Same thing in the writing world. Many of the “monsters” have velvet paws, as you say.

  3. Risk rejection – because we are called to be Christ-like: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

  4. Mary Kay Moody says:

    Take the chance to let others read my work? They are why I write. God nudged me to write for the benefit of others, so I share it (often with fear and trembling rather than confidence though).

    A couple of lessons learned help me welcome critiques, etc.
    1.When I was in the real estate business, the wonderful woman who trained me said that we average “yes” only 10% of the time so celebrate each “no” as one step closer to making a sale.

    2. A contest judge of my 2nd novel (a sequel) was surprised to learn the location of the story about 45 pages in. I was dumbfounded at that comment but checked & she was right. I had not made it clear. When I asked my critique group where it was set, they all told me & were shocked to learn that indeed, we had all missed the fact that the setting was not included in the book opening. We knew the location from the first novel and just read it into the opening of the second. Huge lesson learned re: value of critiques and objectivity. It isn’t always about bad writing or mistakes, but seeing what is on the page versus what we intended to put on the page. When people can give us that, it is a golden gift.

  5. Monotony and mediocrity are the sad state of the overly cautious. Anything worth having will involve risk, whether it be that glorious being you want as your spouse, that job or career change, or that publishing contract. All of it involves risk. Even our walk with Christ – that initial step – involves risk. But the rewards far outweigh that.
    – As to the specific question, I don’t think much about rejection. I like what I’ve written, and I want it published. I’ve been rejected repeatedly, and will likely be rejected even further in the near future. However, when it comes to critique groups and beta readers, I do not consider that rejection, but rather polish.
    – When you repaint a vehicle, once the paint and clear-coat are applied, it looks pretty nasty. It is painted, and has that glossy top on it, but it just does not look right. It is then that you begin rubbing and polishing it with rubbing compound. This is gritty stuff and your initial thought it that it is going to scratch the new paint job something awful. And it kind of does apply micro scratches. But over time, you use finer, and finer polishes with smaller “grit” in them. Eventually you have a beautiful, glossy glass-like coating on the car, and you can apply that final coat of wax to really make it pop.
    – It is no different with our writing. We must subject it to the 800, 1200, 1500, 2000 grit sandpaper, and then the gritty rubbing compound. Those who are sanding the burrs off of our product are on our side. They want us to succeed. Let them help!
    – I work in software development for my day job. Over the years I have seen two camps of belief & behavior between developers and testers. The tester’s job is to break the product and then document how they did so. The unhealthy, or immature developer will see the relationship as adversarial. The tester is the enemy. The mature, healthy developer is deeply grateful for the work of the tester, because they know the tester is helping them to produce a superior product! So it is with our writing. Treasure your critique group and your beta readers. They are helping you produce a superior product.

  6. You swallow and send it. When you know you are doing the best you can and willing to grow … just send it. It feels like … “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

  7. It helps me to look at what will happen if my query/proposal is rejected:
    1) My family will disown me.
    2) My in-laws will take out a restraining order, issued by a judge who fully appreciates their desire not to be associated with losers.
    3) My wife will take out full-page ads in the New York and Los Angeles Times, detailing (with some literalness) my shortcomings.
    4) The dogs will swear allegiance to the cat.
    * Whatever. Send it in, because what ever happens, they can’t make me slow, soft, and ugly.

  8. David Todd says:

    “Other than practicing rejection repetitions, how have you gained confidence to let others read your work? Critique your writing? Consider your proposal?”
    By self-publishing my work. While I’m not saying never to trade publishing, right now I’m having my work read and “critiqued” by the reading public, and I’m finding it quite refreshing. Each new publications is easier to lay open for public scrutiny. My sales are paltry, but, judging from the 52 total Amazon reviews I have, it is being favorably critiqued. The only hesitation I really had on letting the public have access to my work was my poetry book. For some reason, even though many of the poems in it had been through poetry critique sites, I felt much more vulnerable with poetry than I did with prose.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      David, it’s true that poetry does make a writer feel more vulnerable, as it should. But I find it interesting that independent publishing does not eliminate all risk of rejection. Those who self-publish need to bolster themselves against many of the same issues, which you’re finding with the disparity between great reviews and “paltry” sales. A self-published author often asks, “Are they rejecting my cover? The format? The story? The fact that my name doesn’t equate to an automatic sale?” That may not be your experience, but writers do need to know that independent publishing doesn’t erase the need for courage and the importance of risking rejection.

      • David Todd says:

        Very true, Cynthia. A self-publisher deals with rejection, just as does the writer on the trade publishing path. Just rejected by a different audience.

  9. CJ Myerly says:

    I think critique groups has really helped me grow to where I can accept rejection so much more than I could a year ago. I’ve had both positive and negative feedback, and I’ve learned how to mull over the negative so I can glean what I need.

    I think it’s always hard, and I’m gearing up to submit my first proposal, but it’s a journey I’m excited to take.

  10. Professional writers get rejections. That’s a fact of life. Unfortunately most publishers today don’t even bother to send rejections, and I greatly regret that. Yes, they’re busy, but how difficult can it be to send a form e-mail message?

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      Janet, the uncertainty is disconcerting. Years ago, when publishing houses cut their staff, those whose job it was to send those form email messages were…rejected.

  11. Carol Ashby says:

    My first career was research, and a rejection is rather like a failed experiment. You take what you can learn from what didn’t work and then look for something that will work using what you learned.

  12. I started slowly. At first I didn’t even tell anyone I was writing a book not because I was afraid of rejection but because I wanted to make sure I could finish, lol. My family were my first readers (not a true test, but if they hadn’t liked it, then I would have KNOWN it was bad!).
    Cynthia, you were one of the first non-family members to see my work (at Mt. Hermon) and the very first to talk with me about it. Your encouraging comments did a lot to bolster my courage. Thank you!
    Another note : Realizing that rejection is common in this business and not meant to be personal makes a huge difference to me.

  13. Pat Iacuzzi says:

    I’ve always felt that ‘talent’ doesn’t really exist–it’s your Purpose that does. God blesses us with a desire for our purpose in life ( an enjoyment or love for something good or beneficial) and through that, we get so involved we study & practice until we get it right, (music, sports, writing, etc.) and get it out there to help others who might learn from it, appreciate it in some way. But it’s always to Glorify Him, and hopefully a way to answer questions or struggles others may have.

    God has given us a purpose, while the world sabotages with rejection. If this happens, hopefully we monitor and adjust on the route He’s placed before us, rather than give up.

    Take the risk and try again. Beautiful way to overcome and fight those fears–Thank you, Cynthia!

  14. Mary R. P. Schutter says:

    Cynthia thank you so much for this post. For more years than I care to count, I wrote but often avoided submitting. The rejections I received told me I wasn’t good enough to be a ‘real’ writer. I didn’t understand the importance of learning from those hurtful rejections. Deeply discouraged, I gave up writing for several decades. About two years ago, the Holy Spirit began poking me gently but firmly over a period of a few months, reminding me I was not fulfilling my God-given obligations to use the talent He had given me. I also realized I had been robbing myself of joy. One day, while looking through my old writing files, I rediscovered a long lost love — poetry. This is the wonderful avenue God used to bring back my joy. Rejection has helped me grow as a writer, showing me that every word God gives me is important. I just have to put those words together well. And I have a blast doing just that. I study my rejected pieces and often immediately see why they were rejected. I feel like I’m actually a grown-up writer now. I plan to keep on writing, submitting, and being accepted/rejected until I join my friends and loved ones in heaven. PTL!

  15. I stumbled across an article this morning that deals with this very topic. It’s a short read:

  16. Angie Arndt says:

    It is hard to put yourself “out there in a position to invite rejection. That was a huge fear for me, for a long time. But I finally got over it by remembering that i cannot move forward unless I step over those rejected manuscripts and move forward. Thanks for tackling this hard subject, Cynthia! 🙂

  17. It is possible to have a fear of rejection without being aware of it and I think this was an issue for me which I am working through. It can also be fear of making a serious blunder during the process so we stay trapped in paralysis and this leads to other issues. Self-doubt, anxiety and feeling that it is simply too much and I can’t do it. The growth comes from taking one small step at a time and building our confidence which in turn builds a stronger support network to help us on the journey.

    • Cynthia Ruchti says:

      And the root of network is “net.” How much we depend on that net to catch us or cushion us if we should fall. Great comments.

  18. Carla Gade says:

    This is something I really had to pray about as I advanced in my writing. I eventually moved toward the acceptance that a critique is a tool not a personal attack, and a proposal rejection isn’t to be taken personally. There are so many variables involved and I need to have a teachable spirit if I am to be a writer. Not an easy lesson to learn for a sensitive soul. But God’s grace really helped me in this.

  19. Meghan says:

    Love this!

  20. Susan Sage says:

    I’m not kidding when I say that I actually laughed, danced, and celebrated after receiving my first two book rejections. I felt like I’d accomplished something besides rejection. I had exercised the discipline of a completed job. I had pushed myself beyond my comfort zone in sending my manuscript out there in the great unknown. I had also overcome nervous anxiety about risking rejection. It also made me feel authentic.
    Great reminder. Thank you.

  21. At first it crushed. Then it stung. Eventually it fueled a fire. Rejection never feels good, but it does force growth. I’ll take growth over ego any day!