Writing can be a brutal career. Not brutal in the sense of getting shot at, or breathing in coal dust, or having your loved ones kidnapped by supervillains and held hostage while you battle enormous mechas to save a city from destruction, but, you know, brutal. There’s a lot of rejection, even when you’ve attained a certain level of success. I’m no Stephen King, but I’ve published nine books with the tenth on the way, a few dozen short stories, and I supply about 67% of all the content on the Internet related to books. Yet my career is still soaked in rejection, because that’s the nature of the business.
First there’s my own inner rejection, when I suddenly realize that the story I’m working on stinks, and tell myself to give up or re-work it. That’s always a pretty crappy moment. Then there’s the regular, run-of-the-mill rejection when a beta reader or my agent reads something and tells me in no uncertain terms that it’s just not that good. There are short story rejections, heavy revisions from editors, rejected pitches for freelance stuff, bad reviews—it goes on and on. Rejection comes in many forms.
It’s part of the game, and you have to let it roll off your back. Which is why you need to push your work out there, no matter what.
I have a writing acquaintance who has rarely submitted work, either for potential sale or even just for feedback. He writes and writes and never shows his work. And now I suspect that he’s waited so long that sending out work and getting feedback is terrifying.
This is why you should submit your work, start submitting early, and submit it often. Because you’re gonna get kicked in the crotch by negative feedback and rejection, and the more you get, the more inured to it you’ll become. I got my first rejection letter when I was twelve years old. The more you try to avoid that sort of negative reaction, the harder it gets to move forward.
So, stop waiting for perfection. Just submit your story, your novel, your novelty rap song. Take your licks and get used to it. The big mistake some folks make is assuming that if they stay under cover and work at their craft, when they finally do emerge they’ll have diamond-sharp writing to show that will be critique-proof. There’s no such thing. If you submit often and recklessly, you’ll get a lot of rejection—and soon enough rejection will just be something that happens, a tool you can use to improve or learn or make a sale.
Unless I’m the only one getting all these rejections. In which case, don’t tell me.