Rejection 101: Theories and Revelations

Girl on Writing

by Elizabeth Conte

It’s just another Thursday at book group, but I am always late. I arrive on time, but it seems like my fellow writers have a knack for efficiency and arrive a few minutes earlier. Maybe they have the time. Maybe they needed the coffee more. Or, maybe they are just better at this writing thing than I am. Who knows. But the truth of the matter, I am better at something that most of them have yet to experience: rejection. Lots and lots of rejection!


“Got three manuscript rejections this week, two for my poetry, and one for my short story,” I declare, the patrons of the Panera Bread irritated by my too-loud announcement as I enter, greeting my fellow writers.

I know I get the looks, the secret thoughts of “loser” that must flash across my face as they stare at me. What’s she doing wrong? How horrifying! Poor thing.

They don’t say it. But each has their own fear of rejection. Fear of failure. They are just glad it isn’t them. They still hold the belief that it may pass them by. Worse, many won’t even try, hoping to never deal with the anxiety it conjures, and the shame it brings.

Own Your Truth

Queen of Rejections!  Yup, that is what I like to call myself, with the crown and glory attached to it. I say it. I tell it. I do not shy away from it. I own my truth.

THREE YEARS, my head screams as I stare at my positive-thinking “board.” It isn’t a word or collage of images glued onto poster board. I have a symbol drawn in lip liner on my mirror over my vanity. It’s an outline of a book, squiggly lines scrawled inside the make-believe published novel. I see it every day and night when I brush my teeth. I am reminded at the lack of my success as I start my day, and before I close my eyes at night. When I shout out to a room of strangers and fellow writers alike, it’s not without a great awareness of my failed dream. I admit the rejection head on.

So why do I tell people? Why do I wear my failures on the outside of my body for all to bear witness? Or more like, look away from the tragedy hoping they too will not be cursed with the same fate? Because I want success!

Coping Mechanisms

Rejection slips, or form letters, however tactfully phrased, are laceration of the soul, if not quite inventions of the devil –but there is no way around them. ~ Isaac Asimov

When rejection happens, egos throb with pain. The human notion is to hide away, diminishing the drive to succeed. “But unless you can learn how to take such setbacks in stride, they’re likely to hinder you from moving forward,” says Dr. Leon F. Seltzer in Psychology Today.

It’s not that I am proud of my “failures,” I just want something more on the other side of failure: success. And the only way to get there is through rejection. Rejection is a part of the process of writing, not a declaration of failure. Bypassing it, denying it happens, crying in the dark corner of a coffee shop are not coping mechanisms that will lead to ultimate success. In the article, Bulletproof Writer: How To Deal With Rejection, JoAnna Penn points out successful outcomes come from, A higher threshold for failure. The ability to bounce back from rejection. The successful rebounded like rubber bands. The unsuccessful like twigs.”

Acknowledging that rejection is a lesson to be learned to becoming a writer, rather than a curse for the damned can help change the stigma of rejection. Sharing my rejections, loudly and proudly, takes the shame out of it and lets me see each rejection not as bumps in the road, but as pebbles laying a pathway to publication.


Elizabeth Conte

Elizabeth Conte

When I am not writing books, tormented with poetry, or inspiring others with my blog at, you can find some of my work published in Lost Coast Review and PennWriters, and I am a regular editor/contributor to Industry News for Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA).

10 thoughts on “Rejection 101: Theories and Revelations

  1. to paraphrase another aphorism: ’tis better to have written and lost, to have never written at all. I adore your honesty, admire your style. Research complete for Boomer Chick lit?

  2. Great piece, Elizabeth. It’s easy to escape into the comfort of avoiding rejection in this digital day of publishing. We can easily write a short essay on our own blog or self-publish a book we happen to throw together, as in my case. (“After all, I received one whole “like” on my blog today, and I sold one of my books to a friend this month,” I tell myself. ) However, when you’re going for the gold as you are, the word rejection symbolizes success in submisssion. It could even be a synonym. I know, let’s just all use it as a metaphor for success: “Rejection swept over me like a generous breeze on an oppressively hot summer’s day” (or something like that.)

    1. I love this: “Rejection swept over me like a generous breeze on an oppressively hot summer’s day.” It makes it sound so lovely. Am I going for the gold? I love that you think so. I guess I am just a writer trying my hardest. I am glad to share my journey for other writers…and keeping it real.

  3. Every rejection is one step closer to YES! I admire your grit, and hope to emulate it when I get to the “okay, I finally have the book written, let the rejections flow like the Nile” phase. In the meantime, I’m learning the lesson in smaller doses, with repeated rejections of short stories. Right now, I’d be happy just to get a personalize rejection email — wouldn’t that be nice? 😉

    1. I am not sure I am comfortable with being emulated, but I am honored all the same. My goal for the article is to let people know that there are others in the trenches. Rejection sucks! But it is a part of the process. Nothing worth having comes easily. Good luck with your short story submissions. You are further than most. You are submitting!

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