Writers Worth: It’s Nothing Personal

Writers, rejection happens. A lot. Even when you’re ten years into your career, you’re not about to please everyone.

That’s Anne Wayman’s message in today’s guest post — her second here this month. Anne, a veteran writer and someone who’s taught many of us to let go of the emotional baggage we writers tend to gather, has some ideas about why your idea or your piece was rejected.

Rejection Does Not Define Your Worth

by Anne Wayman

Creative arts, including writing, are weird. We put our best work forward and a client, an editor, or a reader gets to say if it’s any good or not. When one of them rejects our efforts and if we even know about it, we’ll almost never know why. The problem is that with writing and editing, as with other arts, there’s no absolute right or wrong.

I noticed yesterday that I simply didn’t feel smart enough to read two descriptions of medical studies that appeared on one of my favorite blogs (Weekend Link Love which is published every Sunday on Mark’s Daily Apple.) I simply wasn’t interested right then. Notice that says nothing about the writer or the quality of writing.

The point? I had rejected two articles. Of course, the authors didn’t know, but as a magazine editor and blogger who occasionally works with folks who want to do a guest post for me, I’ve rejected a whole bunch of articles over time. Many have been well written imparting information or thinking that might have been helpful to many. In some cases the articles were totally inappropriate for what I was publishing. But some were close to fitting in, except… something wasn’t quite right.

Those are the tough ones because I can’t identify anything in particular that’s wrong. Something’s off and I don’t know what. So the piece gets rejected.

I’m not rejecting the person

It should be obvious shouldn’t it? I’m not rejecting the person.  I’m sure some of the writer’s feel that I am. Fortunately most seem to accept my decision without protest. Sometimes if asked, or I feel it’s appropriate, I’ll give some guidance. Most often this happens when it’s obvious English is not the author’s native language. If it’s a writer I know I’ll usually give a reason if I can figure it out.

I’m not always rejecting the writing

There’s a huge difference between saying a piece isn’t right and saying the writer is a horrible writer. Often the writing is fine, sometimes even better than fine – the piece simply doesn’t fit. That’s all.

Writers must learn to accept rejection

If you’re going to succeed over the long term you simply must accept that some of the time your writing will be rejected. Sure it can hurt, but if you dwell there often enough you’ll stop writing. If you don’t want to write any more, that’s fine. Make that decision. Don’t, please, beat yourself up because an editor or two or even three turned down your writing.

I’ve also been rejected

I don’t know how many times a client or an editor has rejected my writing – plenty. I’ve chosen not to focus on the rejections, but on the acceptances. If I get discouraged I read the testimonials I’ve gotten, or call a writer I truly trust to talk me down. Mostly I know it has nothing to do with me as a person or as a writer.

Work on accepting rejections and move on – you’ll feel better and the chances are you’ll soon be delighting people with your words.

Anne Wayman has been a successful freelance writer for many years. Her blog about writing is: www.AboutFreelanceWriting.com 

Writers what was your turning point when it came to rejection? When did you find yourself at a point of not dwelling on it?

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  • Paula Hendrickson May 23, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Great perspective on rejection, Anne.

    It never bothered me too much. Maybe because when I was younger I knew that my dad, a graphic artist and cartoonist, was saving up rejection slips (when back then were actual papers sent through the mail) thinking he might wallpaper the drywall partition dividing his basement studio from the laundry area. He never did that, but it would have been a fun way to thumb his nose at rejection. (“They sent me free wallpaper!”)

    Even when you know a market inside and out, selling articles is always a combination of a great idea, great writing, and perfect timing. I’ve missed the boat because a similar idea was just assigned to another writer, or it was a great idea but didn’t fit in any of the upcoming issues.

    • lwidmer May 23, 2017 at 3:09 pm

      Paula, you were lucky to grow up with that perspective.

      I like how you equate success with the steps it actually takes to be successful. There’s where a lot of writers miss the boat — you have to know the market. And it’s not a guarantee, but it sure increases the odds, doesn’t it?

  • Sharon Hurley Hall May 24, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Good points, Anne. Having started in journalism, I’ve run the gauntlet of rejections from editors and heavy editing. It goes with the territory, and as you say, it usually isn’t personal.