The Practice of Creativity

What’s Your Rejection Ritual?

Posted on: August 30, 2011

I know…I’ve been away from my blog way too long. I have been “cheating” on this blog by writing occasional blogs at She Writes. She Writes is a great organization devoted to supporting and encouraging women writers.

Below, is a revised version of what I posted on She Writes about coping with rejection and creating rituals. Enjoy!

It’s happened again. I was minding my own business, thinking of myself as a writer, keeping to deadlines and then a rejection letter came in an email. I keep track of where I send pieces but sometimes I forget that something of mine is out floating around in the literary universe. When a rejection email arrives out of the blue it feels like my head has been plunged in cold water. I’ve been writing and submitting long enough to know that rejection is part of the writing process. A very big part of the process. It’s just that I realized that I don’t have a rejection ritual yet. Do you?

For me, rituals are part of my creating process. There’s the way that I sit down with tea or when I turn on the computer or the self-affirming words that I say when I start a piece. I tend to stock up on rituals, go to routines for different aspects of the creative life. But, I haven’t developed one for dealing with rejections. I think I should.

I started thumbing through my writing books-all of which talk about the inevitability of rejection-and was surprised to find that few gave concrete advice or guidance about how to take care of yourself when you get a rejection letter. Most just say that you should immediately write a new query letter and send the manuscript back out–very perfunctory.

If you don’t have Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers, you should. It’s laugh out loud funny, poignant and she makes a lot of analogies about sex, relationships and the writing process. Her take on rejection is that one should write a handwritten thank you note, to the editor, immediately after receiving a rejection. She swears that writing is a type of “spiritual aikido” and helps one stay sane. She also tells a great story about landing a writing assignment after being rejected by an editor over many years. He knew her well through all those nice notes she had sent back to him and gave her work!

I’m in an online writing course with creativity guru SARK (author of many books including Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It). I asked her and the other participants about dealing with rejection. SARK suggested that after getting rejected you write an email *to yourself* from them (whoever has done the rejecting) that you would LIKE to receive. She also liked the idea of sending a nice thank you note—by email—to the editor or agent. She also reminded me of her quote: “If you’re not getting rejected, it means you’re not reaching far enough.”

I like both See’s and SARK’s encouragement to reroute what feels like negative energy back out to the literary universe for transmutation. I can see myself sending a nice email back to the editor thanking them for reading my piece and that I’ll submit again. I’m also intrigued by the idea of sending myself the email I would have really liked to receive.

My writing teacher, Marjorie Hudson (author of the new short story collection Accidental Birds), has encouraged her students to think about rejection as a process. She said that we should all strive for 100 rejections letters; 100 rejection letters is part of developing our chops as writers. When I first heard this, I frankly thought that she was a bit insane and also somewhat smugly thought that I was already up to a 100 rejection letters. As it turns out, I’m only about half way there! This sobered me up and got me back to work. Next time I see her, I’m going to ask what to do when I get to 100? Maybe throw a party?

So, I’m curious, do you have a rejection ritual that helps you? Is it fun and light or dark and melodramatic? Do you keep the rejection letters in a special file or immediately throw them away? How do you navigate the world of rejection?

7 Responses to "What’s Your Rejection Ritual?"

Ouch! I can sympathise with that, Michelle.

I think the only thing you can do IS to see it as part of the process. Every writer who tries to be published gets rejected at some time or other. I’ve just been blogging about writing short stories for magazines – even if you’ve written for them for years, you can still be rejected. What you learn is that it isn’t that your work is dire (although you naturally have to raise that question in your own mind!) but that it doesn’t fit in with that particular market at that particular time. I’ve had one story thrown out by one magazine, only to be snapped up by another who loved it.

I’m philosophical about the short stories, but when it comes to me writing as me – well then I find rejection just makes me all the more determined (once I’ve got over the self-doubt bit first). My mantra is: I’ll show ’em! Whatever and however long it takes. They’re wrong. (well, they might be right at this moment, but I can work on that) I’ll show em.



Hi Juliet,
Thanks for visiting my blog and commenting here. You’re so right about seeing this as part of the process! And, like you getting rejected as only served to make me even more persistent!


Yay! Way to go!

I’ve also found that being rejected has led me to a much better place for me, in the end.

Which just goes to show!

Juliet 🙂


Hi Michelle, Rituals are great if they are something you like to do, I’m not so sure I would want to spend too much time on a rejection ritual, moving on is the important thing, not being slowed down or arrested by it.

I don’t have the answer, but I did something last year which helped change how I percieve rejections. I joined a challenge to achieve 50 rejections in one year. Like you, initially I thought, What? Then I started thinking about it and recognised that to receive a rejection actually is an achievement and if you strive to achieve a certain number of them, by default you are motivating yourself to send out more, because when that work comes back to you, you can say “Great, I get to send it out into the world again.” So I am actually happy to recieve my work back, I review again, make some changes and send it out again. When I started doing this, it also motivated me to write a lot more short stories, because I didn’t want to be just focusing on my unpublished novel.

And then there’s blogging and SheWrites, the places we return to for encouragement and enjoyment.

Bonne continuation!


Hi Claire,
Thanks for your comment. And, I LOVE the 50 rejection challenge idea in one year idea! I look forward to reading my work and your work in print! What great stories we will have to tell others!


Hey I want to say that many successful writers do get rejected many times. Just keep pressing forward. Never give up. Or self Publish, createspace, I hear is wonderful and cheap. I plan to publish my own. I found you from Shewrites and today was my first day I wanted to connect with other writers. I told everyone to go to a different site I do on book reviews but now I think I might link my other one on writing:


Hey Jackie,
Thanks so much for your comment! Welcome to SheWrites and thanks for sharing your resources, I will definitely check them out!


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Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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