All creative artists have to deal with rejection. It’s the reality of being in a competitive field where technology and globalisation are changing the game. When your work is out there waiting to find its home, and it comes back with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’, the first reaction is that it’s a rejection of you. They don't like me! ‘They’ don't even know you. What they have said ‘No’ to is a particular piece of work at a particular point in time. Does this mean the work is terrible? Possibly, but you submitted the piece when it was a good as you could get it, didn't you? Let’s assume you took care of all the basics (worked on the piece to perfection, formatted it to industry standard, complied with all submission guidelines). Once that's out of the way, there are lots of reasons that your work is pushed back. The response may be because they have just published a similar piece, maybe they have too many pieces in that genre. Sometimes, it’s about right time, right place. Unfortunately, even when you understand the logic of it, the emotion remains. Disappointment is not something you ever get used to. That's okay. You wouldn’t have an artist’s sensibilities if it didn’t sting a little. You are allowed to feel a tad sorry for yourself, but not for long.
One of the things we tell writing students is this: persistent will win out over talent in the long run. We see many talented budding writers who give up when success doesn’t come as fast as they want. There are others whose talent may not be as great, but who dedicate themselves to improving their craft and muster the courage to send their work out, repeatedly, despite the many ‘thanks, but…’ responses they receive.
In my early days, I received a piece of great advice from an established writer when I chewed her ear about my growing pile of rejections and feeling like a failure. She said, “Lucia, just do the work.” It’s as simple as that. Focus on doing your best writing, give it wings and let it go out in the world. Accept that not everything you write will be published. Let it come back to you with its lessons. Whatever it teaches you will help you build your ‘overnight success’—the background preparation that no one sees before it all starts to fall into place.
You have to believe in your work before anyone else can. That might sound trite, but the truth is that the basis of believing in yourself involves exactly what my writer friend said: continuing to do the work, honing it, giving it opportunities to be accepted and not investing in rejections; in fact, despite them, trying again. Yes, you’ll bomb out, possibly many times—many ultimately successful writers have—don’t let that stop you. Every piece you write has its home, be it published and on a bookshelf or in your bottom drawer. So next time someone gives you a great big ‘but’, get off yours and have another go. No buts about it.