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Reframing rejection

woman at museum with paintings in gold frames

When I submitted a poem to a literary magazine earlier this year (for the first time since college), I spent the next several days in a mental battle with myself — or with my “Censor” as Julia Cameron calls it in The Artist’s Way. Self doubt was constantly clouding my mind. “You’re not a writer; who are you kidding?” “Why did you even try?” “You’re only going to disappoint yourself.”

Throughout this year, and as I’ve currently been working through The Artist’s Way, I’ve uncovered a lot of “little t trauma” in my life as a writer — both professionally and personally. And the big thing that’s gotten me stuck time and time again is the fear of rejection.

“The worst thing that can happen is someone says no.”

But that’s not true. The worst thing that can happen is that a “no” will lodge its way into my head and paralyze me. Getting stuck is easy; getting unstuck isn’t. It reminds me of something the character Finnick Odair says in Mockingjay: “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”

If the fear of rejection, and the fear of it getting me stuck, is what’s getting me stuck in the first place, how can I get over it?

Here’s the thing: I don’t think I can. I also can’t push through and pretend that I have thick skin or that I don't care. So I’ve been doing the only thing I know how to do.

Turn rejection on its head.

Reframe it. Celebrate it.

I told myself if my poem didn’t get published, I’d print my rejection email and frame it. Why? Because it proves that I tried, that I did the scary thing and have something to show for it.

As I’ve been starting up my freelance business, I’ve seen this same fear of rejection pop up again, slowly and sneakily, especially as I’ve started cold pitching to potential clients.

So I created a folder in my email called “Rejections” with that little emoji face wearing a party hat, reminding me to celebrate each “no” that I get. Because if we can’t celebrate our rejections, our showing up and getting out of our comfort zones, then what’s the point? How will we stay motivated to keep pushing through until we get a “yes”?

My poem did end up getting published, in case you’re wondering — which, of course, is great. But what's better is knowing that I would've still been fine even if it hadn't. Because either way, it would be worth celebrating.


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