Embracing Rejection: A Guest Post by Don Rearden

At this stage in my writing career I’m far too much of a greenhorn to be giving advice of any substance or merit. Unless we happen to be talking about one essential component of any writing career, in which case — for that one particular slice of the writing pie — I am a certified expert. If there were writing seminars or conventions with fancy buffets on this topic, I would be the keynote. If someone would read a book devoted to the nuances of this topic, I would be the author.

And since you, gentle reader, have already been duped into reading this far, the least I can do is provide for you the subject that has my rugged, yet handsome, photo beside it on the Wikipedia page devoted exclusively to it:


Rejection has been around since the earliest writings on cavewalls. (As evidenced by caveman writings followed by, “We regret to inform you…”) From those first cave scratchings, rejection became a standard part of the writing life; unless, of course, you were a celebrity who just always wanted to write a novel or a children’s story. It wasn’t until the mid to late 90’s that the art of rejection was truly crafted and finally perfected.

By me.

See, in order to perfect rejection, a writer must first begin with ridiculous aspirations. Believe that every word, every paragraph, every page of poetry or prose is perfect. Believe that every character, climax, and conclusion is complex and “crafted.” Finally, the writer doesn’t just hope for publication or production, but knows it will be so.

In this fashion, and only this fashion, will the writer be completely and wholly crushed upon opening that first rejection letter. Complete and utter devastation is necessary for the writer to take the next important step:


Then, once the writer begins writing in a new genre or form, perhaps several years after that initial rejection wears off, the sting of the second and subsequent rejections will create a nostalgic sensation of sorts. This is key. Feel that pain. Throw the letters in a giant pile and roll in them naked. Let their sharp little edges cut your skin. Bleed on them. Bleed. In a word:

Embrace the rejection.

Okay that was three words, but you get my point. Rejection is an essential part of the process. Writing is supposed to be painful. Why do you think all those great writers drank opium and put their heads in gas stoves? It was because they were great and didn’t know about rejection! So if you’re like me, you’re mediocre at best and you love the act of writing enough that even rejection is a validation of what you are trying to do. Write. Get rejected. And learn to love it.

Then write on.

Plus, who can afford opium or gas these days?

Bio: Don Rearden’s writing has never actually been rejected. He is a master storyteller who simply wants to understand the pain and anguish he imagines lesser writers must endure.

[Blog Editor’s note: This post was initially rejected eighteen times, but due to real Alaskan writers being busy with actual writing projects, we had to accept Don’s at the last minute. Our sincere apologies.]

2 thoughts on “Embracing Rejection: A Guest Post by Don Rearden”

  1. God bless y'all who can make me laugh out loud!

    I once sent a piece to the New Yorker, knowing it would be rejected (it was for the Shouts & Murmers column) just so I could have a rejection from the New Yorker. Even I do not understand why it was a satisfying process, but it was.

    Zyzzyva sends the best rejection letters ever. Howard (forgot his last name) the editor must have gotten lots of rejections in his day because he knows how to do it right. Read his literary mag, submit, enjoy a great belly laugh when you get his rejection.

    As a practical matter, for anyone out there who needs to get something published in order to keep on living, here's a small suggestion:

    Most magazines have a back page where they publish freelance pieces of under 1000 words. Go to a magazine that you have subscribed to for many years (you do, don't you?) that has an audience you know well,(people like yourself) and write a small piece for that back page. Abandon the Writer's Marketplace listings for a while and look around your own "backyard" for places to publish.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top