THURSDAY THOUGHTS: Are You Rejecting Your Rejection?
I was prepared.
For the rejection, that is.
There was an open call for unagented writers to submit a query letter to editors at a very big deal NYC publishing house.
I thought, this is it—my dream of becoming the next Glennon Doyle is about to come true. I’d been sitting on an almost completed book proposal for several years, and every cell in my body told me to jump on this amazing opportunity.
In the following weeks, I tweaked my query and polished my proposal in the small chance an editor would request to see it. With fingers crossed, I sent my first query and prayed for the best. All applicants were promised to be contacted by September 8. So, I waited.
I was high on hope and optimism, but I understood the odds of getting chosen from the thousands of submissions were stacked against me. The one guarantee in the publishing world is that you will be rejected. It’s the norm. It could take at least fifty queries before getting an interest, only to be rejected after you send the requested proposal—but I was okay with this and was excited to take on the challenge. I believed in my book, and I believed in my dream. I was prepared to trudge forward, regardless of a rejection.
As I “patiently” waited, I began following a thread on Facebook where other writers who’ve also submitted to the same open call were sharing their experiences. With one week remaining before Judgement Day, members from this group began posting their results. Line after line in the comments read, “I just received my rejection too”. The rejections were rolling in like wildfire. It was September 7th, and I had yet to receive mine. I was left witha glimmer of hope, but I was ready—for whichever outcome.
So here’s the funny thing. On September 8th, I finally received the email. It was a very kind “Thank you, but I don’t think we are the right fit” form letter. My heart sank, but I felt okay about it…. for about FIVE MINUTES. And then this happened. The deflation. I felt the air—once filled with confidence andassurance, hsssss its way out of my heart and soul. Then the voices began. They had so much to say, and they were so mean! Did you actually think you could write a book? You question every comma-usage, and you don’t ever dare to use semi-colons. How can you call yourself a writer? Your story sucks. And you’re wasting a lot of time pursuing something that won’t go anywhere. The idea of writing again felt agonizing. I thought I was so prepared for the rejection, yet I found myself stuck in sulk-mode, and I couldn’t get out.
So, what did I do? As any sane and intelligent person would do, I checked my email and spam folder, REPEATEDLY, to look for the “I’m sorry, we made a terrible mistake and would love for you to submit your proposal” message. Then, I dissected, analyzed, and compared each word in my rejection letter with the one’s that the others were sharing on the Facebook thread—because, just maybe, the slight difference could mean that they in fact loved my query. I made up an entire backstory of why they’d waited until the final day to notify me—obviously, because there was a ferocious editorial debate about it and only 49% of the editors were jumping at the chance to give me a six-figure deal.
I knew what I was doing (sigh..).
I was holding on to false beliefs to self-soothe. I also knew that I was allowing my emotions to resist something great from happening.
In my years of practicing yoga, I’ve learned that often, there will be discomfort in your process of growing and evolving. But once you get passed the threshold of resistance and pain, you gain a new level of freedom by detaching from what no longer serves you. As a result, you make space for wisdom and a fresh perspective. I knew there was an opportunity for growth in the discomfort that I felt from my rejection. So, instead of dissectingand analyzing the side character in my story—the rejection letter, I shifted my focus to the main character—the actual,rejection.
I felt the pain. I let it simmer. I stewed in it for a little, but it was time to let it go and reap the rewards from the discomfort. And this is what I gained:
Do Better: My query was good, but it wasn’t great. It needed to be cleaned up. A lot. After doing a deep investigative dive into query-writing tips on the internet, I learned how much more of my voice and tone needed to be baked into the letter. I now have a query that is more authentically, me, and portrays a clearer vision of my story.
Focus on what matters: I had no control over the selection process and re-playing the rejection had me going in circles. It was draining. I decided to shift my focus to improving my writing—something that I was able to control. Jumping back into querying and working on my proposal felt a little too jarring at first so, I worked on other writing projects. And that’s okay too. The act of just writing helped heal the wound.
Be Prepared: When that big opportunity comes one day, I want to make sure that I’m prepared. My hook was weak, and my synopsis had holes. The rejection helped me recognize the much-needed preparation to reach the level of professionalism I was nowhere near. If and when the opportunity to pitch to an agent or editor presents itself, I want to be certain that I’m confident and able to deliver with a punch.
Find Gratitude: Submitting to this open call encouraged me to dust off my proposal and jump back into my writing. It provided a lifeline to the ambition I left floating in the sea of neglected dreams. Not only did it provide a clearer lens to what my query needed, it also led me to the writing community on Facebookwhere I have access to a wealth of support, feedback, and knowledge from many experienced writers. Despite the rejection, I am grateful for what was ignited from this process.
Applaud: Applaud. I repeat, applaud, applaud, applaud! I am giving myself major props for having the courage to put myself out there! I believe in myself and choose to keep going, one submission at a time.
It’s easy to gain confidence from a win. But I believe it’s the strength needed to rise from our falls that builds the kind of muscle that’s flexible, but resilient. It’s this kind of strength that teaches us to be humble but also a fighter. And in each rejection lies a pearl of wisdom that helps us get one step closer to our desired goal and sets us up to succeed for when that golden opportunity meets us again. One day, when we’re least expecting it, that window will appear, and we’ll be ready to shine our light.
Because, why not you?
Anna French is a mom, wife, and yogi who recently stepped back into the workforce after being a full-time mother to her four children. During those precious years, she mastered the art of multi-tasking, problem-solving and organizational skills and had part-time positions as a production coordinator for Kiwi Magazine, a yoga teacher and volunteer at her children’s school. She joined WNY People Development in July 2022 to help with their events and stepped into the role as Operations Coordinator in January 2023. Anna graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Communications and worked as a production manager for a marketing company before becoming a full-time mom. Originally from New Jersey, Anna and her family have been living in Wilmington, NC since 2013 where her daughters attend high school—her boys are, at NC State University. Traveling is a must for Anna. Getaways with her family is what she lives for, along with eating her way through all the local eateries! When Anna isn’t working or traveling, she works on her writing—stories, lessons and gained wisdom from her life experiences that she plans to share with her children one day.