How To Cope With Rejection As A Freelancer

“I used to save all my rejections, always thinking, “I’ll show them“. I always talk about how hard it is, but I also think it’s glorious… …Writers are writers because they can’t help but be writers; they have to get it out there. I feel more whole and reassured when I’ve written something. I try to discourage my students from a writing career most of the time. The ones who get beyond it are really meant to do it.” – Lawrence Grobel

Is there anything more rattling than those few seconds after clicking the “Send” button when submitting an article to a publication? Your heart skips a beat. You briefly live out a nightmare where you envision the editor screaming to himself, “What the hell is this? Is this guy serious? Stop wasting my time!

On the other hand, maybe you’re so confident that you assume everything you write is gold. Yes – there are definitely those people. However, it is this author’s belief that the majority of us, whether we’ll admit it or not, are scared little children when it comes to revealing our meager selves to the world.

How ironic then that the word “NO” is more common than any other – at least in this industry. Coping with rejection can prove to be large hurdle when it comes to persevering.

Force Rejection Into A Learning Experience.

Whether you’re an experienced veteran or fresh out of college, you will feel the burn of rejection at some point or another. It’s part of the business. With the standard response time being upwards of thirty days, the wait can prove long and painful. More so than not (at least it seems), the standard reply is a polite, but apathetic “No thank you.

However, don’t be so quick to toss the letter, or email, in the trash. Take several moments and analyze it. Is it a standard template that any receptionist could have filled? Is it an actual typed letter or email directly from the editor, himself? Find out what you’re dealing with here.

If it’s an actual letter, consider this to be a possible “in“. The next time you have an idea, send another letter to the editor and include the first couple of paragraphs of your article. Try to pull him in and want more. Follow that by reintroducing yourself and request that he take a look at some of your other ideas. Persevere! You’d be hard-pressed to find a single successful freelancer that hasn’t had his or her heart shoved into the ground at some…or many points.

Refresh Your Idea.

Take a good hard look at your proposal. Can it possibly be reformatted for a different publication? Is it possible that with a few more revisions, your idea could be revamped? Or, be honest with yourself. Is it possible that you’re idea just isn’t that original and intriguing?

Try to be as objective as possible. What is the goal here – To become as creative and talented as possible? Or should you spend your free time going on rants about how the editor is an idiot because he doesn’t see your true genius?

Though it might be difficult, respect the fact that you’ll forever be in a state of learning. Honestly, would you ever want it any other way?

Real World Example.

A famous songwriter from the beloved show “Fraggle Rock” once admitted that he wrote five to ten songs a day! When asked how he was able to do so, he responded, “Well some of them stink!“. He continued, “If I can write one or two really good songs in a week, I’m a happy man.

Let’s analyze this statement. Coming from a very accomplished writer, he’d be proud of himself if he churned out 2/25 high quality songs each week. Are you that hard on yourself? Do you scrap all but twelve percent of your writings? A great and maturing lesson that everyone, including yours truly, should learn is that no matter how talented we might think we are, sometimes we’re going to “stink”.

Realizing such concepts can be greatly liberating. We’re all in this same shabby boat trying to paddle ourselves to greatness. To our dismay, it seems that such landmarks can only be achieved sporadically.

What do you think?


  1. says

    “Is there anything more rattling than those few seconds after clicking the “Send” button when submitting an article to a publication?”

    This week I sent an article to a very popular blog, and this is exactly what I experienced. It wasn’t fun knowing that someone very influential was going to be looking at my work and potentially not liking. Fortunately it looks like it’s going to be published.

  2. says

    I estimate that 95% of what I start never makes it through to the end. Either it will stink so much halfway through that I’ll be sick of dealing with it, or I’ll shelve it for a little while only to come back to it and wonder how on earth I wrote it–and not in a good way.

    The really ironic thing? Most of my friends think that I’m “prolific”. I suppose I am–I can fill pages of my little sketch-notebook with doodles and half-started notes in my time on the train–but does it really count if most of it is crap?

  3. Max says

    Allright, I find this article amusing in a sort of way. Can’t help but get inspired, almost willing to get rejected. Then I started wondering where all rejected and unpublished work end up. I’m not saving old work, mostly I tend to look over it a couple of times before dragging it to the trash can. Therefore a lot of the time I put in my work obviously goes out the window, whether I like it or not.

    So this got me thinking, what about starting up a blog, dedicated to only publish rejected work? What do you guys think? Send me an e-mail if there’s any interest. Offcourse you’ll have to categorize it so that it will be easy to find what exactly you are looking for, but seriously, I’m interested in knowing why certain articles gets rejected, and if they’re going in the bin eitherway why not help someone else from doing the same mistake.

    Well, just a thought…

  4. says

    Yet again some spot on advice, and you should definitely turn the rejection into a learning experience. If you get a reason etc for your rejection then you should read it, because anyone who has taken time to explain something to you deserves your full respect and attention.

  5. says

    Writing is work. Not everything is going to be amazing, and some of it might even be terrible. But we know when we’re flying high, and when we could do better. If rejection doesn’t make you stronger, than your not working hard enough. Dr. Suess was rejected twenty-nine times. Rudyard Kipling was told by the San Fransisco Chronicle that he didn’t understand the English language. When we’re rejected, we should look for the element of truth in what that person is saying, and then use it to push us into better writing, or disregard their obvious insanity and continue to get rejected.

  6. Ben says

    Mr. Way’s message that writing is work and in order to improve, you have to embrace your failures and grow as a result, holds a semblance of truth. Like other professions, we grow as a result of criticism. Maturity is a hard-fought battle against pride, ego, and a desire for self-recognition. But if you can get over that, why, you’ll be a man! Apologies to Sir Rudyard Kipling.

  7. says

    The idea I have always relied on for a good session writing is preparation. Like any art, it is difficult to produce if, as a creative mind in some manner or another, you have less of an approach to the writing and more of a positive but centered instinct.
    Research doesn’t hurt either.


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  2. […] How To Cope With Rejection As A Freelancer – Is there anything more rattling than those few seconds after clicking the “Send” button when submitting an article to a publication? Your heart skips a beat. You briefly live out a nightmare where you envision the editor screaming to himself, “What the hell is this? Is this guy serious? Stop wasting my time!” […]

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