Eat Rejection for Breakfast

Rejection is hard.

It hurts.

Some people handle it better than others, but it affects us all.

A post popped up on my “Memories” on Facebook. I think I had just gotten a rejection from someone I’d pitched to and was processing through it with a friend. She said, “We eat rejection for breakfast,” to which I replied, “Yes, but it gives us heartburn.”

I’ve had to deal with that again this week. A rejection from a publisher I’d pitched to.

And it doesn’t get easier.

Sometimes it matters less, like if I wasn’t terribly enthused about the agent or publisher I was pitching to in the first place, and that makes it easier to get over. But it doesn’t hurt less.

Writing is incredibly personal. We all know this. And while we know that rejection is part of the business, an integral part of the learning curve of studying, improving, rewriting, and trying again, it still feels personal. We have spent countless hours–days, weeks, sometimes years–writing and rewriting and editing and getting feedback and rewriting again, before finally setting it before The Powers that Be for their judgment.

And then those Powers tell you your work isn’t good enough.

They usually say it nicer than that. “This wasn’t right for us,” “This part was good but I didn’t connect with the character,” “Your this-that-or-the-other needs work.”

Editing for Havok, I have to do the same thing to people. I always try to give feedback that will help them improve, but I try to say it in a nice way so they don’t think I think they’re terrible writers. But it’s hard. It’s hard to give constructive criticism, which is why most people, in general, have a hard time. We hear the criticism, but it’s hard to filter that and collect the constructive elements.

And with writing especially, when we’ve invested so much of ourselves into our work, the words “It’s not good enough” sound a lot like “You’re not good enough.”

It hurts.




But, like anything, it all depends on what we do with that.

Do we let it destroy us? Or do we take the constructive and use it to improve? Do we try again? Do we filter one person’s opinion based on feedback from others and build on that knowledge to make our work that much better?

That, I think, is what separates the people who succeed from those who fizzle out. I’ve often said it only takes about ten or fifteen years to become an overnight success. If rejection pierces us so we can’t go on, then we’ll never get there. But if we can keep trying, using those difficult moments to improve, then eventually we’ll see success.

Eventually, we’ll eat rejection for breakfast. Even if it gives us heartburn.


About Avily Jerome

Avily Jerome is a writer and the editor of Havok Magazine. Her short stories have been published in various magazines, both print and digital. She has judged several writing contests and is a writing conference teacher and presenter. She writes speculative fiction, her ideas ranging from almost-real-world action/adventures to epic fantasies to supernatural thrillers.

9 comments on “Eat Rejection for Breakfast

  1. I hear you on rejection. Timely as we’re in conference season. Thanks for this post. I needed it!

  2. Love this. I actually appreciated your kind words on a story I submitted that just did not make the cut. You acknowledged the good and were a blessing! I never forgot that even though my story was rejected, so thank you. ❤

  3. This is so true. Though I find if I get actual useful feedback, I can manage to file it away as a win, after the initial hurt wears off a little. What stings me the worst are the ones that say, “I liked it. I just didn’t love it.” So frustrating and unhelpful.

    • Agreed! How can I fix it if I don’t know what’s wrong?
      Not that every agent/editor is required to offer feedback on every submission. I understand they don’t have time for that. But it definitely makes it harder to hear.

  4. Avily, I’m so sorry this happened. Let me share with you Ferguson’s Laws of Rejection, if I may. Again, this may not win me many friends, but what else is new? 🙂 These certainly do not apply to all editors, or to you in your evaluation of submissions, nor do they apply to my editor on my current WIP or we would obviously not be working together, But I am convinced these attitudes do exist and you editors know who you are.

    I was struck by what you said, “What is wrong?” That depends.

    Law 1: If we reject you, it’s always your fault because you did something wrong. I found this stated in a “Christian” writers guide, believer it or not. Not quite said that way in my usual bluntness, but that was the upshot of it. You are responsible for your rejections, never us.

    Law 2: We can never make a mistake. Dune, anyone? Let alone Lord of the Rings, which was rejected! Enough said on that.

    Law 3: Rejection occurs because you did not meet the “objective” standards. None of them dare admit that personality and subjectivity play a much, much higher role in what gets rejected, as least as much as not following “standards” which are also subjective in many cases, such as claiming “He said with a snarl” is platinum but “He snarled” is excrement. As a master of languages, I defy any pundit to explain the logic of that to me.

    Yes, my claws are showing. This is not about good, objective editing and careful evaluation of submissions. It is about attitudes and practices coloring the editor’s view in more than a few cases. And the effect these attitudes and practices have on others.

    My point: there is nothing “wrong:” with you or the way you write. There is always room for improvement in all of us, myself included. But do not allow the Enemy of our souls and our writing to discourage you. Never give up. Self-publish if that is where God leads. And/or keep hammering away at the bastions of publicational defiance. Those who rejected you may in time choke on a bitter breakfast themselves one day. Like those who turned a little Roman Catholic man and his ravings away.

    • Oh, I absolutely know this to be true.
      There are many, many times I have to reject things for Havok that I really love, but can’t use for a variety of reasons. It doesn’t work for the issue, I have another story that is too similar, it doesn’t fit our brand, I don’t have room in that issue, etc.

      Even more often, a story has potential but it doesn’t translate to their writing. Yet. And that is where I hope my feedback is helpful.

      And many (even most) of my acquisitions are based on my personal preferences. I try to be unbiased and acquire a broad range of styles and voices and genres, and when I’m giving feedback I try very hard to focus only on craft issues, whether the story is to my personal taste or not.

      So yes, it is absolutely subjective. Much of the time it comes down to finding the right fit. Objectively, I know this.
      Personally, it still stings and feels…well…personal. 🙂

      Thank you for your encouragement. It is very validating to be reminded of it from the other side.

  5. […] and submit anyway. Maybe the editor will decide I’m not ready and will reject me. Then what? I eat it for breakfast, as Avily would say, and try […]

  6. Rejection is hard. Which is why, as writers, we need to grow a tough hide. Our writing is personal. We bleed onto the page. And if we pitch our work to editors or agents we aren’t excited to work with, pray that it gets rejected. Because if it’s accepted, that relationship will likely be h-ll to live in and work with. Editors and agents are real people, just like writers are real people. And they have bad days, too. And they cry over having to reject a work they love because they cannot think of a single market for it. Which is where independent publishing comes in. If YOU believe in the project–not just because it’s yours but because you believe someone needs to hear these words–the either look for another home for it, or get off the pot and publish it yourself. If it’s good, it deserves to be out there. And as for editors making mistakes? The Left Behind series was rejected by like 3 of the major Christian publishing houses, eventually getting picked up outside the CBA. Talk about red faces. And HG, never give up. I can’t wait until your next book comes out! Jezebelle, in October, isn’t it?

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