Ravi Shankar Rajan is a software program director who writes on varied subjects from history, archaeology to leadership and poetry.
Rejection Is Painful
Rejection is brutal. I mean, it really hurts.
When an editor rejects your article or tells you your story needs more work, your eyes swell up, your chest compresses, and you have to wait for your vision to clear from the glaze of disappointment before you can pick your heart up from the floor. It’s painful and there can be no overstating about the bitter experience.
But now that your story has been rejected. You have 3 options.
- You sulk in the corner, bawl your eyes out, and swear you’ll never write another word in your life. (You are being the loser here.)
- You suck it up, throw the project out, and start working on something new. (This is an okay option, but still not the best.)
- You plan and make your rejected articles successful. (I’ll give you a gold medal for doing this)
And if you plan to go with option 3, here is the 4-step plan to do so.
Step 1 — Preplanning for Rejection
Preplanning is perhaps the most critical step.
In this step, you mentally prepare yourself and assume that most of your writing would be rejected, at least initially. This clears your mind of mental blockades and puts you in touch with reality. It also helps you to focus on alternatives.
You can focus on the following activities as part of this phase.
- Make prior decisions about where you would send the story next.
- No matter how pissed off you are, you should thank the editor and try to learn from the rejection comments.
- Put firm limits on your schedule for revision and resubmission once you have the rejection. Remember you need to have a defined start and end time to rework on the story and make sure you follow the schedule to the last comma. Nothing more, nothing less.
- If the rejection seems unfair, suspend all plans to rewrite till you take the social step (Step 4). Share the rejected story and the editorial comments with other writers can seek specific feedback.
Remember, preplanning is very important to mitigate the mental trauma of rejection. This helps you to maintain a sense of momentum and prevent negativity from creeping in.
Step 2 — Self Control
Self-control involves self-appraisal of the story. This is an important step to weed out the negative scripts that get accumulated after the rejection.
Some activities which can be carried out in this step can be.
- Write down your evaluation of the story as though you are the editor. Watch out for perfectionism. Your goal is to reassure yourself that the story is still worthwhile in spite of some imperfections. This is the catalyst.
- Write down the self-talk about the rejection especially the negative scripts that come in the mind after rejection that leads to blocking. Replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts that encourages and rewards writing. Remember thought substitution (replacing negative with positive thoughts) is hard and you get perfect with repeated practice.
- Once you are in a position to think positively, look for patterns that may relate to your writing problems. (procrastination, impatience, grammar issues, perfectionism, etc.) and prepare a plan to address the issues.
Remember self-control is all about maintaining a conscious mind. Only a conscious mind helps in carrying out positive narratives and inculcates a sense of “who is the star” in all the narratives - which is you, and only you.
Step 3 — Automaticity
You start revising the story here as though you are working on a new story.
Follow the Ernest Hemingway principle of “The first draft of anything is shit”.
Thinking happens during writing. The surest way to slow the process is to worry too much about whether your thinking is any good.
So give yourself permission to write badly. If you can’t think of a word use another/equivalent/filler words: don’t slow down and start to think too much.
Do this ‘free flow writing’ in bursts of about 30 minutes. When you need a rest, review and fiddle with the text– then move on to another burst.
Just think about what you want to write, then outline it. If it’s an article, jot down the subheadings. If it’s a web copy, write down the points you want to cover. If you prefer, you can also write a more detailed outline for easier writing later.
Give some keywords to every topic or even paragraph in the article. Once you have the outline, writing will be a breeze and doesn’t take much time. Before you know it, the work is done!
Automaticity helps you to develop a sense of whether your original goals and direction are actually clear. You may discover that the reviewers even the rudest and the least understanding may have a valid point.
Use automatic writing to generate freshness and a new voice to the story.
Step 4 — Social
Most writing is a social act. But strangely, we typically do most of it in private without soliciting the inputs of other writers.
This is the precise reason that writers fall prey to depression and anxiety when they stay encased in their own cocoons without understanding the “sense of audience” that might be required for their writing.
And one simple way of writing more sociable is to share it for comments/inputs with other writers as you develop it. In my experience, most writers welcome giving inputs to stories at abstract or outline stages. They also reciprocate by sharing their own formative work. At the very least, these exchanges generate ideas and create the groundwork for collaborative writing.
Some rules that help in meaningful collaboration can be as below.
- Structure your request with specific feedback required(theme, flow, narration, ending, etc.) so that the reader is in a position to respond to specific questions.
- Use several critics including even those who oppose your bias. This will help you to refine the perspective of the work and get an idea on the audience which needs to be targeted.
- Respond to your critic as soon as possible with calm agreement or disagreement as applicable. Remember you can almost always find something in the most negative criticism that can help your writing and that may be correct also. Forgo your ego and absorb the learning.
Remember generally editors do not like to send rejections. But they will remember and admire the rare writer who responds to rejections by asking for feedback. They will treat you more graciously in the future.
Being a writer is draining. You will be emotional, mentally, and physically stressed as you continue to face new challenges that test your patience.
You will have to keep going no matter the obstacles you deal with, and you will need to possess the energy that keeps you going.
It may be tempting to give up but you will need to keep pushing forward if you do not want your time and effort invested to go to waste. This is when you need to dig deep within yourself to remember why you started writing in the first place.
You did it to earn more money, live a more abundant life, and to be your own boss.
And you cannot achieve any of these things if you choose to give up now.
As Elbert Hubbard has rightly said.
"A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success."
- Robert Boice - Professors as writers: a self-help guide to productive writing (Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press, 1990).
- Robert Boice - Advice for new faculty members: (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 2000).
- Tara Gray - Publish & Flourish: become a prolific scholar (Teaching Academy, New Mexico State University, 2005).
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 01, 2021:
Rejected articles just require a little more rework. This article talks about a 4-step process that you can use to get your rejected articles accepted.