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Rejection is Part of Writing

June 2, 2014

By Joanne Lewis

I am coaching a colleague as he begins his foray into the field of writing. Having been wildly successful in his career and reaching the top of his profession, he thought—like many others—that writing would be easy.

He finished his first short story and submitted it to a contest, expecting to receive the accolades that have followed him his entire adult life. When he got the rejection, he wrote the following to me:

“If I don’t have the ability to write 1000 words, then I am in the wrong field.”

I thought long and hard as to how I wanted to respond. Should I be encouraging to a fault, telling him how the judges of that contest were probably illiterate? Or should I respond by saying he was right, he is in the wrong field? Of course, none of those were options since neither was true. Instead, this is what I wrote to him upon his declaration that he was “in the wrong field”:

“DON’T BE RIDICULOUS!!!! Rejection is part of writing. It’s subjective if someone likes a writing or not. Dan Brown has sold a gazillion books and many people say he’s a horrible writer. Maybe for this contest the theme of your story wasn’t what they were looking for, maybe it was political, or maybe it had nothing to do with you. Or, maybe the story wasn’t up to par. You are a new writer. It takes years and years to perfect the craft. Wallow in your bad feelings for one day and one day only, and then get back to work. 

“Every other person you meet says, “I want to be a writer” or “I can write a book”. But the truth is very few people (1) ever sit down to write, (2) complete a story, or (3) are able to write something compelling. That is because writing is very hard. 

“Use this as a jumping off place to learn more, work harder and be determined not to give up.

“There will be more rejections, I promise. Success in your writing has to come from within first, then you can worry about what the outside world thinks.”

Lessons he needed to hear. Lessons I needed to hear too.


Joanne Lewis is the author of murder mysteries and historical novels. She is also a writing and publishing coach, and a professional editor. Visit her website at and email her at


  1. June 2, 2014 8:35 am

    Great advice to any novice. I’m still one after 10 years of writing. I have had the occasional rejection, like every single short story I ever submitted which was about 3. It hurt at first, now I realize I’ve been submitting to the wrong groups, but I didn’t start writing to make money, so why did I feel compelled to submit? Validation maybe? Not sure.

    Anyway, such a great response from you to your friend.

    • June 4, 2014 9:40 pm

      You’re right, Diane. I always say writing is a labor of love first and foremost. Anything from there needs to be considered an unexpected bonus.

  2. June 4, 2014 10:10 am

    Awesome advice and a great perspective, Joanne!j

  3. June 4, 2014 10:15 am

    Reblogged this on Nothing Like We Imagined and commented:
    Terrific advice for those of you who are new to writing and are frustrated by the feedback from your peers. You’ll develop thicker skin and writing muscles over time. Hang in there and don’t give up!

  4. June 4, 2014 9:40 pm

    That’s great, Jeff. Don’t give up is the perfect mantra!

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