Facing Constant Rejection? Get Back on That Horse.

I work from home, could have written this in my pyjamas and frankly, I nearly did. Then I remembered Rome wasn’t built by the apparent sons of the God Mars whilst they were sporting a unicorn onesie. So I stopped writing, stood up and went off to dress myself as a human being.

In case you hadn’t guessed already, I’m back now. And to be honest these human being jeans are getting a little bit snug, but the great thing is no one is going to see me in them until about four-thirty this afternoon when my teenage daughter gets home from school. Unless the postman appears with a parcel. Perhaps an invitation to appear as a guest at a bookish event or festival? A ‘please sign on the dotted line and I’ll be your literary agent, thank you very much’ type letter? A – gasp – royalties cheque? It’s the thought of that (eventual) kind of knock on the door that makes me get dressed in the morning, even if I can’t breathe because of a restricting waistline. However, as I’m about to explain to you, I’ve never been one to let restrictions hold me back.
I came to put my fingers to the keyboard today after reading a series of online updates from an unhappy soul expressing their grief at being subjected to a lot of rejection lately. There have been gripes about their chosen industry, a stab at the people who have unfollowed them because they’ve had the ‘audacity’ to express personal feelings in their updates. They even went so far as to ask their connections to stop posting about new job successes in their timeline. ‘Think of the people who are being turned down’ was the plea.

So that is what I did. At first I thought of offering a response just to try to gee this person up. After all, I get that feeling of total loss; of thinking today is the day I should stop trying. Then I remembered that my time would be better spent writing for a broader audience, which is, after all, what my job is supposed to be about. I’m a writer, in case you hadn’t guessed already, and I suspect that nobody knows rejection better than writers. Whilst I’m by no means an author who can claim to have beaten all doubters at this stage, I’m up to the task of telling someone how to keep going in the face of as many versions of the word ‘no’ as the English language contains.

I have been trying to crack this writerly-egg for six years and I haven’t quite reached the creamy yolk of success. (It might have something to do with the use of some very bad metaphors? – Ed). I’m having to self-publish my work now, but I still wish for an agent, a publisher – hell, some TV writing work wouldn’t go amiss. And what I tell those people who ask how I cope as I try to achieve what only five percent of writers are able to, is that in choosing this vocation I knew I would have to face an extraordinary amount of rejection – I mean, HUGE. See, I even wrote it in capitals, just to help drive that message home. I knew this was coming, so how can I fail to embrace it?

I admit, it’s hard to cuddle the ‘we-don’t-want-you-and-your-words’ enemy. If your aim in life is to work in, say, an office for example, you’ll attend some interviews to get that job. Then, if you’re very good at what you do, you may only have to put yourself out there for more interviews when you want or need to make a career change. For a writer, constantly submitting your work – AKA your heart – to agents, publishers, book-bloggers, magazine editors, newspapers, independent bookstores, creative grant providers, etc, etc, can be akin to a never ending line of failed interviews. You’re getting turned down for the job day in, day out for weeks, months, sometimes even years on end. But then, you love it don’t you? This is what you have to endure to be where you want to be. So even though there are days when you say to yourself that it really is time to go to Indeed and apply for a few ‘real’ jobs, only to then be bombarded with spam phone calls for a fortnight after putting in for a particularly dubious looking one (oh yes, I did!), you can’t help yourself – you have to return to abject poverty and this ‘thing’ that your heart won’t let you stop doing.

The new comedy fiction novel I’m working on right now is about a woman who meets the ghost of Scotland’s most famous son, Robert Burns, who is quoted as having said, ‘There is more to poetry than pounds and pence.’ Once upon a time I wouldn’t have understood what that meant, and it was then that I had no business attempting to make a living as a writer. I understand now. If you too are a writer/artist/poet/creative dreamer and know what Burns meant, then this is what you’re supposed to be doing with your life, rejections aside. You really do have to love it with more than the desire to make money and win, not that we don’t all want this of course. But it won’t be the hand that drives you, that’s the long and short of it. There is more to poetry than pounds and pence.

So next time you open that email that begins with the words, ‘Thank you for allowing me to look at your work, but…’ try and resist the urge to go to the social platform many decision-makers may be going to read about you on, in order to bleat about the injustice of it all. Remember this is all part of the process. It’s not personal, it’s the business. It’s not you they’re rejecting, it’s an idea that doesn’t fit for them. Suck it up, soldier on and breathe. Because you and I both know you are going to keep coming back to beat yourself up against this wall again until you crack it. You are going to feel awful in this career that chose you. Your long days are going to be filled with equal measures of self-doubt, excitement, procrastination, hope, joy, love, bitter, resentful loathing and frying pan throwing – it’s basically a marriage. You have to keep telling yourself that no matter what, you’ll ride this pony to the finish line or die trying. This, my creatively-gifted friend, is what makes you unique.

Then get back on that horse.

PS if you liked what you read and want to leave me a tip, you could write ‘leave out the egg metaphors’ in the comments here, OR you could always download a copy of one of my books, she hinted: OVER HERE

Heather Hill
Mum of five (not the band), I am an author and comedy writer based in Scotland, UK

2 Responses to “Facing Constant Rejection? Get Back on That Horse.

  • Great post, Heather. We have similar timings in our careers, and I have been wondering whether to ‘beat that egg’ again, lately. You have helped me!