Get a Free Ebook

Five Inspirational Truths for Authors

Try our Video Classes

Downloadable in-depth learning, with pdf slides

Find out more about My Book Therapy

We want to help you up your writing game. If you are stuck, or just want a boost, please check us out!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Is fear of rejection your excuse for not being published?

This post comes from my ebook The 11 Secrets of Getting Published.  After all the 11 secrets, I have three bonus sections: the story of my publication journey, quick writer tips, and "I'd be published, but..." This comes from the latter. See if you can find yourself in this letter from a reader of my publishing blog.
I’d be published, but rejection stinks!

A five-time mom wrote:

I liked to be published, but I’m scared of submitting anything and being rejected. I also want to start some new articles but struggling to get past the first paragraph because of writers block.

First, let me address writer’s block. A few cures:

  • Do it anyway. Make yourself write a crummy paragraph. It’s easier to revise something terrible than to fret over coming up with something in the first place.
  • Turn off that English teacher. She’s mean (I know; I was one). She takes away your courage. Tell yourself, “Yeah, it may be incorrect, but at least it’s words on a page.” Kindly tell that English teacher that you’ll let her have her say . . . after the first draft.
  • Take a walk. Getting out of your office and away from your computer will help.
  • Do something other than writing that is creative. Take photos. Draw a picture. Often doing something like that will free you up.
Now, on to rejection. A few years ago, I asked about rejection to a group of published writers. Rejection does stink. It’s hard. But you need to think realistically about it, heralding its benefits:

  • Rejection is proof that you’re gutsy and you’ve tried.
  • Rejection is not a “never,” but a not yet.
  • Rejection is a writer’s badge of honor. What good publishing story is complete without the obstacle of rejection?
  • Rejection keeps you humble.
  • Rejection is simply one person’s opinion.
  • Rejection helps you grow in your craft. It is the impetus for change.
  • Rejection provides paper to cover one or two or three or four walls of your office. Just think! You won’t have to buy costly wallpaper!
  • Rejection, as you get closer to publication, will be more personal. What I mean is that at first you will get form rejection letters. But as you improve, your rejections will get real, live feedback. That’s a good sign.
  • Rejection can give you direction for a project.
  • Rejection may help you realize your current project is not marketable. Then you can tweak it, abandon it for another project.
  • Rejection gives you thick skin. (Believe me, the idea that once you’re published, you’ll never have rejection again is a PollyAnna view. In fact, it gets more painful. Learning to accept rejection with grace now will help you immensely when you get more painful rejections later as a published writer.)
  • Rejection gives you empathy for other writers.
  • Rejection weeds out the hobby writers from the real writers. If you’re stymied by rejection, if it paralyzes you, then you might want to search your heart to see if writing is really what you’re supposed to do. If you are called to be a writer, rejection will not stop you from submitting. It won’t. If it does, re-evaluate.
  • Rejection helps you with your people-pleasing tendencies. (Ouch, I resemble that remark.)
  • Rejection helps re-direct your career. If your staggering work of genius is rejected, then maybe it’s time to write something different.
  • Rejection helps you know if you’ve found your voice or not.
  • Rejection adds texture to your writing journey.

And now, what not to do when you’re rejected:

  • Immediately send off a nasty email to the editor who rejected you.
  • Or blog about your rejection in specific terms. “That terrible Mary DeMuth rejected me.” Search engines, in this case, will not be your friend.
  • Wallow longer than one hour.
  • Believe it must mean the end of your career.
What to do when you’re rejected:

  • Take that query, re-tweak it, and send it out again, baby!
  • Eat dark chocolate.
  • Remember that every great writer has been rejected numerous times.
  • Allow for a thirty-minute pity party, then get on with your day.
  • If there are critical things said about your piece, let them sit for several hours or a day, then get back to them. Truly, truly read the editorial feedback. Don’t view it as problematic, but priceless. Make the changes necessary. It won’t mean that you can resubmit to that editor, but when you submit it elsewhere, it will be stronger.
  • Bring your piece to your critique group and ask them to be merciless. Often we can’t see our own flaws.
I hope that helps those of you today who are struggling with writer’s block and/or rejection issues. This is a hard journey, folks. It takes perseverance, grit and guts. Keep at it.

This is an excerpt from my latest publishing endeavor, The 11 Secrets of Getting Published. The ebook is only $2.99 and contains over 60,000 words of everything I know about writing and publishing. You can order it in any e-format you like. Find details about 11 Secrets here. 


  1. Great article, Mary and full of lots of wisdom.

  2. Excellent list, Mary! I plan to share this with my local ACFW group.

    I've been helping out with the new WhiteFire Publishing as an acquisitions editor, and this article is exactly right. When a submission is a mess, I glance over a few pages and send the author some sort of form rejection. Sometimes it's just not a fit for us, which has nothing to do with the author's ability. However, recently I had an "almost ready" submission that I liked. I read 40% of the book and sent the author two pages of comments on how she could improve it, and I told her we'd like to see it again.

  3. Great advice as usual Mary (boy you're popping up everywhere!). I've found that when I struggle to write stepping away and enjoying something else creative really does help me. I often go to the art museum, indulge in photography or paint with my daughter. The whole rejection thing, I hate, but I'm preparing myself to take it all in stride. Thanks for the tips and good reminders.

  4. Glad to hear the post helped. If you're not being rejected, it probably means you're not submitting! :)

  5. Thank you, Mary. As always, honest truth with great encouragement.

  6. Thanks so much, Caroline. That's my desire, tell it truthfully and kindly.

  7. Aaahh, I feel so much better now! Thanks for taking the time to share this, Mary.

  8. It's surprising how subtle the Inner Critic can be. He uses rejection to undermine our confidence, whispering, "See, I told you it was crap!" Thanks for lots of good practical advice to help arm ourselves against him.


Don't be shy. Share what's on your mind.