Rejections and Bad Reviews Happen! What to do Next?
Julie Butcher blogs about the inevitable rejection that faces all writers. How to cope, recover, and excel.
Rejections, Reviews, and How Not to Die
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. The day you put your writing in front of agents, editors, or reviewers you’ll sit back and wait for the storm to hit. There will be a storm, a regular—winter is coming so go and hide in the basement, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore— storm. It will have flying cows, and wicked witches riding brooms, and Alliance space ships. It will be so bad that the Wheel of Time stops spinning.
The thing is that you need to be ready for the torrential flood of rejections. If you have a plan, you can weather the storm and not die positively dead of a broken heart. Most writers I know have an apocalypse plan, (Ebola, zombies, aliens). Heck, even I have an end-of-the-world plan and I don’t know what I’m making for dinner.
Unfortunately, writers seldom if ever have a public-humiliation-rejection-review plan. We skip into publishing with our manuscript like a kid with a red balloon. When the big, bad internet devil, Anonymous comes with a shiny nail and the balloon pops—we have no idea what to do. When a rejection comes via email, we flail Muppet-arms and run around the house with our mouth open, wailing like Ernie on downers.
Writers, we need a plan— a four day plan to survive rejection and reviewers.
Day One: When a bad review of your book feels like someone called your kid ugly, or a rejection letter makes you feel like agents and editors everywhere think your brain is stupid you are allowed to grieve. You can be as down in the dumps as you like—for twenty-four hours. But during that time you need to do a few things.
- Stay off the internet. Rejection creates surges of anger and aggression. Until you are the master of your own emotions, it is safer for your well-being and career to be offline.
- Take a Tylenol. A recent article in Psychology Today says that our brain activates the same pathways for rejection that it does for physical pain. Rejection really hurts. Studies also show that Tylenol actually lessens the pain of rejection.
- Rejection, whether from agents, editors, or reviewers, decreases our feeling of belonging to a group. We as people are tribal creatures and this is not a good time to be alone. Reach out to trusted friends or family members. Have a rejection pal there to assure you that you are still a valuable asset to your community. Try and have someone to text with or to talk to in person or on the phone so that you won’t whine all over the internet. You are not online because of reason one.
Day Two: After twenty-four hours, your wallowing in self-pity is over. Put it all behind you. Now it is time for a treat. Keep something in the house that is your most favorite thing to eat or drink. Have a Blu-Ray ready to watch, or *gasp* leave the house and go to a show. Play table games. Have cake and ice cream. Bowl, skydive or do whatever you associate with a fun time. Plan an activity that always raises your spirits. After all, you survived. You didn’t act all drama queen on twitter. You didn’t start a flame war nor send off a scathing email. You win!
[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0316014990″ cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”buzmag-20″]Take a day away from writing and social media and relax. Rejection is a very tiring emotion. Give yourself time to rest and rejuvenate. Live in real life with your family and friends. Piddle around the house. Do anything that is not writing. You might consider vacuuming under the bed because those dust bunnies are the size of Godzilla. Then, get a good night of monster-free sleep.
Day Three: Get back on the horse. If your feelings are too tender to go back to the same project, switch it up. Write a short story or begin another, completely different novel. Post baby animal pictures and funny crash-into-the-wall videos instead of attempting social media on a personal level. Go through the motions—because tomorrow, you are back to normal.
Day Four: Get on twitter or facebook and tease your friends. Act like you always do. Go back to your project and make yourself work. Writing isn’t a one and done deal. It is a culmination of experience and craft. You’ll have bad days and then you’ll have oh so many wonderful moments to balance the scale. It all works out. Stick to your program and don’t let Anonymous and all of his little devils win. You are so totally smarter than that.
What do you do when a bad review or a rejection knocks you sideways? I’m always open to new ideas.
Written by Julie Butcher