I have talked a lot about rejections with fellow writers and most of us seem to agree on many things. What I haven’t done for a while is talk in any depth to someone as yet unpublished about them.
So now I have and I learnt a few home truths. I have always said that we’re all in the same boat and rejections hurt no matter how many times you’ve been published, but I’ve had a rethink on the subject.
We can have a bit of a laugh about the big brown envelopes thudding on the mat and say how it gets you down but you have to pick yourself back up and start again.
But what I haven’t been doing is going back to when I first started. Until you are published there is always that voice at the back of your mind asking, “Am I wasting my time here?” It’s still there when you have been published, but you can usually shut it up by slapping it round the gob with an acceptance letter.
But before that first acceptance, it is very hard to keep going. And a standard rejection letter really can feel like the end of the world – or rather the end of your writing career which amounts to the same thing. It is worse when you’re unpublished and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. So I apologise to anyone who is still striving for their first acceptance in the face of a seemingly never ending stream of rejections for saying it still hurts. It does, but not as much when you haven't had an acceptance to cushion the blow.
Someone arrived on this blog by searching for “how many rejections did it take before someone accepted you?” I was going to answer this, but I can’t find my submissions records from before 1985. I know it was a lot!
I know some writers who had their very first story submission accepted only for it to be followed by a string of rejections. I know others who wrote dozens before their first success.
I do remember the despair if I let myself. I remember the gut-wrenching sight of my own brown envelope coming back through the letter box. I still feel it, but time and experience do make it easier to handle.
I remember tearing stories to shreds and vowing never to write another thing. I remember my eyes throbbing - yes they actually burned and throbbed - with disappointment as I fought not to cry. There have been occasions in recent years where I have been reduced to tears, but those times have been exceptions.
All I can say to those of you out there who are still trying, still battling a seemingly never ending stream of rejection slips is don’t give up. If you want to write, if your gut insists on it and you can’t live without it, then keep doing it. Don’t Give Up!
And finally I found a picture of me taken a few years ago at my desk at the end of the living room. This is the view my family saw of me every day. Looking back and having them all suddenly grown up and producing children of their own, I wish I’d turned round more often.