Sunday, October 24, 2010

Give Yourself Permission to Fail

For many writers, rejections are a bit like a trips to the dentist. They’d do almost anything to avoid them rather than risk getting bad news.  

You can understand someone being afraid of dentists (I know I am), but why fear rejection? What’s so terrible about someone passing up the chance to publish your work?

I think it’s partly because, no matter how much we like to pretend we don’t care, it hurts to have a story turned down. And so it should. If you don’t care if your story gets accepted, why submit it there in the first place? But I believe there’s more to it than worrying about the sting of being told ‘No thank you’ by someone you’ve probably never met.

A rejection, especially when we’re starting out, is a hammer blow to our self-confidence. The bad news for would-be writers is that you’re going to get rejected, probably quite a lot. If getting published is important to you, those rejections are going to hurt.

The good news is that it gets easier. The more knocks you take, the tougher you’ll get, and if you make the effort to improve your craft, if you’re willing to recognize your mistakes and learn from them there’s a good chance that you will get published.

So go on, give yourself permission to fail. Take a deep breath and pitch that story.

One day, your dream will thank you.


Born in England, Jon Gibbs, now lives in New Jersey, where he’s a member of several writers' groups, including SCBWI and The Garden State Horror Writers. He is the founder of The New Jersey Authors’ Network and

Jon's debut novel,
Fur-Face (a Middle Grade fantasy about unusual friendships, unlikely alliances, and wanting to fit in), was published in eBook form by Echelon Press in 2010 (click here to see the trailer).

His presentation/workshop,
The Fine Art of Self Promotion
is based on entries from his popular online journal,
An Englishman in New Jersey.

Jon can usually be found hunched over the computer in his basement office. One day he hopes to figure out how to switch it on.


  1. Very true. Rejections do hurt. But on the other hand if you don't submit your work, it'll never get published. Each rejection is one step closer to getting a 'yes'.

  2. Whew! Finally made it around that gigantic head to get here! ;)

    IMO, if you take something positive out of a negative, you win. End of story. So if every story rejection ends up in you LEARNING something, whether about yourself, the market, or writing itself, you're aHEAD (ok, sorry, couldn't resist) of the game.

    Still stings, but stings just a bit less.

  3. Hi Kim,

    Absolutely, and each non-submission is as good as a rejection anyway.

  4. '...if you take something positive out of a negative, you win'

    Yes indeed :)

  5. Rejections do suck, but that's just part of the game. It is a frustrating game, but I hear if you stick with it, eventually you'll win :)

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. 'Rejections do suck, but that's just part of the game.'

    Exactly, but like bad reviews and book signings where nobody shows, the negatives are what makes the positives feel so good :)

  7. Having accumulated hundreds of rejections during my 37 years as a writer, I'm used to 'em but I can't say that I ever really *like* the things. The one good thing about them is that once you start getting (at least occasional) personal ones, you know that a) the editor is paying attention to you, and b) you're building a little name-equity with her/him.

  8. rejections is, what it is. BUT there is much to be learned in rejections. 1) how to persevere, 2) more about the craft, 3) picking a place more suited for your work, 4) patience, 5) eating ice cream at 4 am. oh, wait! how'd that one get on the list?

  9. In the beginning, rejections devastated me. Then I started really reading what the editor said (when a personal note was added) and learned why my story was rejected. I tape letters with comments on the wall by my desk for encouragement. It helps.

  10. Hi Mr. Sirios,

    You're absolutely right about those personal rejections, and the first handwritten note you get feels almost as good as acceptance, too :)

  11. Lol, Tracy. There's always a place for ice cream on my lists.

  12. Hi Beverly,

    'I tape letters with comments on the wall by my desk for encouragement.'

    Thats a good idea :)

  13. Hi Jon. Great post. Thanks for sharing.

    The most profound thing was a comment you made saying, "each non-submission is as good as a rejection." That just hit me like a ton of bricks.

    I'm going to post that comment where I can see it as a reminder to get stuff sent out on a regular basis. Thanks!

  14. Excellent! Let me know if it does the trick :)

  15. Jon, This is an interesting thought. I have writing friends who are good writers, but they're not afrid of failure, they're afraid of success.

  16. Interesting. Is that what they themselves say, or is it someone else's diagnosis?

  17. Yikes, i'm one of those who fear success. i'm a post rejection writer. success keeps me from trying to publish again because to me success equals a lot of time and work and putting myself out there. it challenges me to defend what i've written--and that's scary. a book signing...gulp! can't i just write and hide?