Stupid Writing Advice – Get a Thick Skin

This is one of my favorite pieces of stupid writing advice. Every writer who starts to become serious about publishing inevitably trips over this doozy during Internet research. You’re going to be rejected, you’re told. Over and over and over. Get used to it. It’s not personal.

That’s true, as far as it goes. The vast majority of editors who send rejections don’t mean it personally, although there are a few asshats out there. However, it’s different when you’re on the receiving end.

Look. Your manuscript is your baby. You’ve fed it, nurtured it, cleaned it up when it made a mess. You even named it, and probably more than once. It’s the best thing you’ve ever written. You get goosebumps when you read it through. It moves you.

When you’ve done everything you can, when you’ve given it every advantage possible, you pat it on the behind and send it out into the world, and not just to any old place. You’ve sent it where it will find a home because you’ve given it what it needs to succeed because you’ve invested so much of yourself in it.

Once it’s out, you start compulsively checking your email every ten minutes for a couple of days. If it’s taking a long time, you tell yourself that they’re actively considering it. You have hope.

Some days, months, or years later:

RE: [Some Journal] Your Baby

Dear You:

Thank you for submitting Your Baby to Some Journal. We appreciate the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, this piece is not for us.

Good luck placing this story elsewhere.


The Editors

Some Journal

Now you face a choice. Are you going to grow some thick skin? Are you going to force yourself to believe that you don’t feel disappointed? Are you going to delete the email and not think about that fact that “Your Baby” was rejected without even the courtesy of a reason why? If you do, your journey with “Your Baby” is over, even if you send it out again, and even if it’s published someday. It’s still over. Maybe you need that kind of closure. A clean break. You’ve ripped the Band-Aid off the fast way. The hair will grow back.

There’s an alternative. You can be honest with yourself. You can mourn the rejection of “Your Baby.” You can conduct an autopsy. Was it the wrong story for the journal? Is there some glaring fault in the story you never saw? Is “Your Baby” less than perfect?

Does it, in fact, suck?

If you have a thick skin, none of these concerns are supposed to get in. The problem is, however, that nothing gets out either. You won’t question. You won’t reassess. You won’t learn anything. “Your Baby” went out into the world and got killed. Can you really just shrug and walk away? What kind of heartless bastard are you?

Face it. It’s all personal. You can’t keep your writing at arm’s length. It’s you. It’s your art. Embrace it. Build on it. You will never cease to surprise yourself.

And that’s my stupid writing advice.

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