Sometimes You Need a Rejection

“ I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” — Sylvester Stallone 


Image courtesy of Mister GC at
Image courtesy of Mister GC at

Through my writing, I’ve learned an important truth. I’ve gone to conferences, attended workshops, read books on the craft, been critiqued, and written, written, written. I’ve grown in my writing ability. By great strides. But knowing this sometimes tempts me to think I’ve arrived at a place to relax.

Image courtesy of nongpimmy at
Image courtesy of nongpimmy at


Often believing we’ve arrived is driven by our growth, not by where excellence lies. Click to tweet. 

I think this is true for most of us. Sometimes we need a rejection to push us to the next level.




Rejections We Might Need


Rejection 1


  • The growth. We’ve gone over and over our scene. We’ve thought of the kinds of problems our critique partner has previously dinged us for. We know it’s perfect. Perhaps we don’t need a critique partner anymore.
  • The rejection. We receive a critique, bloody with red ink.
  • The Next Level. We realize critique partners are a permanent need. When we’re immersed in our scene, even after we’ve let it sit, we can’t see problems only other readers can. Like the turn of a phrase that makes sense to us, but confuses a reader.


Image courtesy of Idea go at
Image courtesy of Idea go at

Rejection 2


  • The growth. Our writing improved after each of two rejected novels. Our third book is published.
  • The rejection. Our fourth book can’t find a home. In the rejection letters, kind editors give us suggestions to improve the work.
  • The Next Level. The rejection teaches us one published book doesn’t mean we’ve arrived in our writing ability. We must continue to hone the craft.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Rejection 3 


  • The growth. We’ve written a publishable story. We’ve done everything craft books, workshop teachers, and paid editors suggested to make it the best story. We pitch it to editors at conferences. Several like our idea and request a proposal.
  • The rejection. We receive kind rejections telling us the editors liked the story but had no place for it. They even take the time to encourage us about our story.
  • The Next Level. We realize this is the business. The rejection isn’t a reflection on us as a writer. We refuse to be discouraged. We move on to the next project. But we tuck the book away.
    • Times may change, and an editor might remember our book and request it again.
    • Or we sell several similar books and garner a following of readers ready for more of our books. We self-publish that book.
    • Or, with our growing reader base, a publisher might be eager now to look at it. This happened to John Grisham. A Time to Kill was Grisham’s first book. Many publishers rejected it. Then a publisher gave it a 5000-copy printing. But after his next books became bestsellers, A Time to Kill was republished twice and made into a movie. 


  • Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
    Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

We learn to keep our options open rather than quitting. For me, I trust in God’s will and timing.

When has a rejection pushed you forward to the next level?

How to Recognize Problems in Your Creative Work Before Seeking Critiques.

“If you don’t understand a problem, then explain it to an audience and listen to yourself.” —Tom Hirshfield

Image courtesy of dan at
Image courtesy of dan at

Your creative work isn’t where you want it to be. You’ve done your checklists, and it’s still lacking. You want to improve your baby so your teacher, critique partner, or coach doesn’t end up doing your work.

So, before you ask for someone else’s feedback, try this simple method and add zest to your creative work every time.

Recognize You in Your Audience

Image courtesy of photostock at
Image courtesy of photostock at

Aren’t you a reader, a viewer of art, a listener in an audience? You qualify as the one who knows what’s missing in your creation. And who cares more about your work than you do?

Step Away and Come Back as Someone Else

In order to switch roles, let your work sit so time lessens your memory and emotions as its creator. Then when you come back to the work, come back as a person in your audience.

Image courtesy of nuchylee at
Image courtesy of nuchylee at

If you’re a novelist like I am, return as a reader. You’re no longer the writer. You’re a reader who paid $12.95 for this book. Surely, you wouldn’t sit in the writer’s chair. Instead, sit where you usually read books. And most likely, you read from an e-reader or the printed page, not from writing software. So ahead of time, you might want to transfer the problem section to your e-reader or print it.

Do whatever you need to do to become a member of your audience. 

Give a Piece of Your Mind

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at
Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

If you’re a reader, re-read the novel, chapter, scene, paragraph, or sentence and ask: When do I first sense something is bitter or bland?

Here are some possibilities:

  • I yawned. If I were the writer, I’d create some action right here that brought out my emotions. Something to keep me awake.
                • I’m disgusted. I dislike the heroine. If I were the writer, I’d either show her nice side or   get another heroine.

Finish reading the selection and tell that author what you’d do to fix each problem area. Then take her for tea and chocolate scones.

If you’re an artist, it might go like this:

  • My eyes keep going to the clump of dirt on the path. If I were the artist, I wouldn’t let that clump distract from the couple kissing in the garden. I’d tone the clump down.
  • It’s the woman. Her cheek is one-dimensional. If I were the artist, I’d add shading to transform her from a paper doll into vibrant woman.
Image courtesy of satit_srihin at
Image courtesy of satit_srihin at

I think we forget to put ourselves in our audience. Readers, viewers, and listeners always see what they don’t like and usually have an opinion of how to fix it. We can too.

How have you corrected problem areas in your work before getting others’ feedback?

4 Questions to Answer Before You Bash Critics of Your Creative Works

“We have met the enemy and they is us.” — Ashleigh Brilliant

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

We want people to love our creative works, but find critics dislike them. People refuse to look at or listen to or taste our works. Sure, critics are often wrong. But not always.

Here are 4 questions to answer before you react to your discouragement. Your honest answers will make your next creative work soar.


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Image courtesy of sixninepixels at

1. Did you focus on how the audience should be, instead of how you should have performed?

When I was a new Children’s leader for Bible Study Fellowship, I wanted to pray for good children’s behavior. The experienced leaders surprised me when they, instead, prayed for leaders’ creativity to handle the behavior problems.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I focused on learning ways to handle situations, instead of hoping children would be something they aren’t. I worked to create engaging stories and activities appropriate for their age.

The children reacted in positive ways and learned more when I concentrated on how to work with their wants and needs.


MP9002891982. Did you offer your work to the wrong audience, instead of to the very ones who would embrace it?

When I entered the world of writing fiction, I thought if I wrote a good story well, everyone would love it. A book on writing book proposals surprised me when it asked: Who is your audience? I answered: The world. Okay, women and some men. But during an editor appointment at a writers’ conference, the editor asked me to define my audience. “Women and some men” fell flat.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. Writing wasn’t about me; it was about readers. I learned about niches. Not every woman loves novels about horses or young love or mid-life crises or murder or prairie life.

I learned reducing the world to the right niche still left scads of readers hungry for stories they adore.

?????????????3. Did you try to own your work, instead of giving it to the people for whom you said you created it?

I dreamed of a Christian library in our community where people could enjoy current Christian resources and fiction. Over a year’s time with the help of others, I worked to create a Christian library at our church. I expected members to check out the work in progress. When few did, I asked my husband why more members weren’t interested. Maybe the work wasn’t worth it. My husband’s answer surprised me. He said only a small percentage of people (about 15% of Americans) read books on a regular basis.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I had wanted to give readers and teachers a wonderful resource. The library wasn’t mine to hold back from the few who’d use it often and make a difference tapping its resources.

When I stopped worrying about “my work” and made the library the best for readers and Bible teachers, it was a success.

Image courtesy of photostock at
Image courtesy of photostock at

4. Did you compare yourself to your peers, instead of the standard of excellence?

Editors rejected my first books. One reason resulted from my wish to please everyone. I changed sentences in my manuscripts according to critique partners’ and contest judges’ feedback. In two different contests, the feedback from judges surprised me. Twice this happened: one judge disliked a line in my story and another praised that same line.

My paradigm shift made all the difference. I had edited the life out of my stories trying to please everyone.

This understanding allowed me to use feedback wisely and to find my own writing voice to create better stories.

What paradigm shift have you made that improved the quality of your creative work?

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