Why I Want to Receive At Least 15 More Rejections This Year

I know how crazy this sounds. There’s nothing worse than sending out your work to hear ‘no thanks’ or worse, six months of silence. It can be painful, especially for creative pieces that are close to your heart. Rote responses or even the words, “it doesn’t fit” can feel dehumanizing. After a while, you’re not quite sure what the hell it means anymore. Even if you read at least two of their previous publications, carefully picking the right works, it can still fall flat. After all, you aren’t the editor.

So why am I trying to get 15 more rejections this year? Inside rejection might be the key to getting my work out in the world.

The problem in avoiding rejection

Rejection stopped me from trying. I had some decent rationalizations. It was work and it felt like it only led to rejection. What was the point, especially when I couldn’t get accepted especially by publications that didn’t pay? So I stopped. I continued to write, but it would live in easy places, where I could self-publish or share with one or two friends. Was that a real problem? Maybe not, but it kept me limited. Worse, I kept myself having any shot at being published.

That feeling led to a deeper creative rut. I stopped writing as much poetry. Rejection and fear sowed doubt. Was my poetry any good? Would anyone really want to read it? Maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought. Rejection was killing my creativity.

Rejection can be everywhere

embarrassed cat

You don’t have to be on the creative writing hustle to face rejection. It can be as easy as sharing it with a friend and hearing “huh” as the only response. Creativity, especially if it’s not what people expect, can be hard to hear. Rejection can also feel deeply personal, especially if you’re just beginning to embrace your creativity.

But here’s the thing: your creative expression can be amazing, but not popular. Bjork and Marilyn Manson are not conventional, but they found their audiences. I will probably never listen to a full Marilyn Manson album.  It’s not because he lacks talent: I just don’t like industrial rock. That’s the difference: a lot of rejection isn’t about talent, but about different tastes.

Giving myself permission

I won’t lie: the idea of creating a goal for rejection wasn’t my idea. I can’t remember where I saw it, but once I did, it changed my perspective. For a while, I’d been submitting pieces and closing my eyes tight, hoping I wasn’t rejected, still afraid.

Making it a goal changed how I see it. Now, it’s an accepted part of my reality. Expecting it leaves me feeling more prepared for rejection.

This won’t be a total change: I’ll still get sad when it happens. I hope it will make that process less painful. In the end, I think having a rejection goal will make getting accepted more likely. I’ll be putting myself out there more. My acceptance rates might not change, but my absolute numbers will. That’s the game changer I really want.

Creating a thicker skin


Remember the first time someone broke up with you? It felt like your heart was in a million pieces. You had no idea how you’d get over that feeling. Okay, maybe being a hormonal teenager makes that worse, but future breakups can be just as hard. Still, there’s a difference: you know you can get over them. Previous experience has given coping skills. Experience lets you know that, with time, you’ll feel differently.

Rejection when it comes to my art is not quite the same thing. Yet, with each rejection, it becomes a bit more normal. I know now that pieces that have been rejected can find homes. They may have to face quite a few rejections first, but that doesn’t make them bad work.

What won’t change is that rejection will always be a part of putting work out into the world.  It’s a hurdle you have to face. The only other option is hiding your work, which is its own small tragedy.

Each time I face rejection, I jump across another hurdle. Yet, I don’t think this is the only way to handle rejection. Here are a few other ways you can get yourself used to it.

1. Join a critique group

It’s not the same as rejection, but it will help you adjust to hearing weak points about your work. A good group will do this constructively. The focus should be not on taking you down, but how your art/creativity can improve. One of the best courses I took for my writing was a class that had this every week. It was uncomfortable in the beginning but worth it: my writing improved more in 3 months than it had in 3 years.

Not ready for a group? Try to find one-three people in your life who can give critical feedback. Be clear that you’re looking for ways to improve and see how it goes.


2. Remember even famous artists faced rejection


Rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that your work is bad. Remember J.K. Rowling? Harry Potter was rejected 12 times before a publisher picked it up. George Orwell was told that Animal Farm wasn’t “the right point of view from which to criticize the political situation at the present time.” One editor, who’d read The Bell Jar, hoped Sylvia Plath, “will use her talent more effectively next time.” I’ve never met but I definitely don’t like this editor.

I point all these out to show how subjective gatekeepers are. Some people will love your work, but finding them can be a lot of work. All these famous artists show you aren’t alone in that struggle. Thousands of creative people are working to find outlets every day.

My favorite silver lining: Facing rejection means you’ve joined a group with some very talented people.

3. Keep up your self-care

Rejection can be emotionally draining and that’s ok. Just because it’s tough doesn’t mean you have to “tough it out”. In fact, self-care has made it easier for me to move on and face more rejection. Some self-care things I do include:

• Call a friend and vent
• Write down 3 things I’m grateful for
• Cry/let out the emotion
• Write a list of successes

If you’re like me, you could be judging yourself for needing self-care after facing rejection. Tending to yourself doesn’t mean your weak. It acknowledges that rejection is hard. Self-care keeps you strong enough to keep going. There’s nothing wrong with that.

This work is a labor of love but it’s still labor. Say thanks with a small donation to my paypal. Thanks!

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