There’s been some talk on Twitter today about rejection in freelancing, so I thought I’d talk about it. In no particular order . . .
Rejection doesn’t mean you suck
Not always at least. Sure, sometimes what you write is a real stinker and it’s not up tot he quality that people are looking for. I’ve been guilty of that at least once. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes rejection means that your idea isn’t quite right for who you’re pitching it to. Sometimes it means it’s not the right time. Sometimes it means you’re almost there, but the idea needs a little work.
Ideally, rejection isn’t a binary pass/fail. Sometimes it is, sure; when a publisher just comes back to you with a “no”, you can feel free to ignore that. They’re not giving you anything useful, so just move on. Maybe try your idea out on some other publishers. Maybe work on it a bit and try it out again on the same one. But don’t pay too much attention to this kind of rejection because doing so isn’t productive or helpful at all.
Hopefully, when you get rejected, you get some feedback along with the “no thank you” letter. If you do, that’s your cue to sit up and pay attention, because . . .
Rejection is a tool
It’s a valuable tool. Nobody’s perfect, nobody writes gold their first time, and even really good writers don’t write gold every time. When you get rejected and you get feedback along with that rejection, that’s an opportunity for you to see where you went wrong and how you can improve. Sometimes internalizing and implementing a publisher’s feedback is enough to turn a rejection into an acceptance, but even if it’s not you’re still improving the quality of your work.
Be careful though; not all feedback is created equal. Each publisher has a perspective, each looks for certain things and prizes certain things over others. Any feedback you get is going to be colored by that lense, and you should be aware of that going in. Just because a Publisher points out something “wrong” in your piece doesn’t make it true. Look at your work as objectively as you can and do the same with the feedback. Apply what makes sense, throw away the rest.
Sometimes it happens a lot. If you’re in the business of creating things for other people to publish, sometimes those people aren’t going to want to publish those things. You’re going to have to get used to that if you want to keep pursuing freelancing.
This isn’t necessarily about growing a thick skin, because that implies that you’re not letting anything the criticism through. Read above to see why that’s not useful. It’s more about separating your work from yourself and realizing that a rejection of your work is not a reflection on you as a person, and is not necessarily even a reflection on the quality of your work as a whole. Again, read above.
But seriously, get used to it. Everyone who creates things for other people to consume gets rejected sometimes, or gets their stuff torn apart by critics or fans. The simple fact of the matter is that humans have differing tastes, and not everything you write will work for every publisher (or every human) out there. The important thing is to keep doing what you’re doing, to not let a few rejections discourage you from doing something you enjoy.