Rejection: What is REALLY in Control?

Rejection, woman crying

Rejection, woman crying

Rejection can be so devastating, that the emotional impact registers the same as physical pain. Think about that for a moment. Our brain cannot tell the difference between losing a job and getting hit with a bat.

In fact, for those of you out there who’ve ever been fired spectacularly (too)? You might even prefer being hit with a bat.

Can I get an AMEN?

The sense of “belonging” to a group is hardwired into our DNA, and for very good reasons. For most of human history, life was nasty, brutish and short. We needed to remain in groups to ensure survival.

Rejection was very literally a death sentence. This is why cultures all over the world all have some form of exile/banishment reserved among the gravest of penalties.

Not So Fun Fact

fire, rejection, being fired

fire, rejection, being fired

Earlier, I mentioned “being fired.” The etymology of this word is LITERAL. As in no one in the tribe liked you.

So they burned down your hut.

Subtlety had yet to be invented.

Pain is meant to teach lessons that keep us alive, in tact, and reproducing. We touch a hot stove? We instantly learn that’s a bad idea. Yet, here’s the rub. Social pain is ALSO meant to teach lessons. Historically, when we acted in certain ways, we could expect rejection (or, conversely, acceptance) from the group. Pain served as a guide and taught us how to be properly social.

The problem, however, is that—while that hand we burned at age two fades from memory—the first time we were dumped, fired, bullied, laughed at in public is likely to never go away.

I know. I missed my calling writing for Hallmark.

Why are we talking about rejection, anyway? For a number of reasons, but first and foremost, we are writers.

Need I say more?

Knowing this, how do we get up? More importantly, how do we keep getting up time after time?

Expect Rejection

rejection, Gladiator meme, writing

rejection, Gladiator meme, writing

To make it in our profession, we must develop rhino skin. Writing is largely subjective. Trust me. Once you put yourself out there, everyone has an opinion. Many feel the urge to express that opinion, regardless of whether it is helpful or not.

Despite the fact that the general population spends almost all their extra time and money on what WRITERS create (Internet, movies, Netflix, books), most will insist we do not have a REAL job.


It’s dumb. I know. Roll with it, and, if it helps? Remember people eat Tide Pods, too. What can I say?

If you want to publish the traditional route, then expect agents and editors to reject you. Hopefully, they’ll be nice about it, but there are no guarantees.

Say you get a book contract. Yay you!

Ah, but that book will hit the market eventually, and then it will be time to face the critics…and the readers.

While I love getting a good book review, they can’t all be good.

This said?

People can be amazing…but they can be so horrid they’ll leave a writer curled in the fetal position washing down cookie dough with tequila.

Blogging is Good Practice

Does every writer need to have a blog? No. Is it a good idea? Sure. Blogs play to a writer’s strengths. Writers WRITE. Or, at least we are supposed to. Blogs are a great place to learn, to refine our voice, to improve our skills, and to…*sigh* learn how to deal with rejection.

When I started this blog almost fifteen years ago, my biggest fans were cheaphandbagsandxanax, sexyrussianbrides, and hotcollegegirlsforyou.

They left the best comments.

“I so lick your blog.”

“You make many good poinsettias.”

“You’re post is much brilliant!”

*sighs wistfully*

I knew they were bots, but I didn’t have the heart to delete the comments because looking at NOTHING was so much more depressing. Week after week, year after year, I blogged to the ether. But, I kept at it and, with time, eventually people began caring what I had to say.

Blogging taught me self-discipline. I learned to write to a deadline and SHIP. It trained out all my most of my okay some of my perfectionism. Blogs don’t have to be Pulitzer-ready. Perfect is overrated. In fact, perfect is the enemy of the finished. Let’s just say that blogging helped me grow up as a person and a professional.

Sadly, though.

Not All Days Can Be Halcyon Days

Works with trolls, too.

It’s great fabulous to go viral. First time I went viral, I didn’t even talk about writing. I figured no one was reading my posts anyway, so I griped about STAR WARS in What Went Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels? Wow.

FYI, people are VERY passionate about a made-up universe. That post is over a decade old and still getting comments.

It’s all fun and games…

…until you write something meaty and divisive and get misquoted and it feels like everyone on the Internet wants to run your head through a garbage disposal.

I give you…“Pay the Writer.”

From the reaction, I might as well have written a post called “Punch a Kitten.” Weirdly enough, the notion of actually paying writers with MONEY was a very polarizing post. Who knew? While many authors and readers rallied to my side (y’all were AWESOME), others swarmed to my site to call me the “c” word.

“Cute” NOT the word.

It took all my willpower not to take down the post. I just wanted it all to STOP! But, I didn’t. If writers being paid was the hill I’d die on, there were dumber hills.

If I didn’t stand by my work, who would?

Book Rejection Reviews Can Hurt, Too

rejection, meme, toy car crash

rejection, meme, toy car crash

The same thing happens with all books. When I choose something to read, I rarely let reviews influence my choice. The reason? In my opinion, reviewers are often unreliable narrators.

I don’t know if this will help, but, statistically speaking, only two kinds of people are likely to leave a review. Those who LOVED our book…and those who want to set it (and maybe even us) on fire inside our hut with our keyboards.

***Learned that little nugget in political statistics.

Those who enjoyed the book—then simply moved on to the next read—are statistically unlikely to leave a review because they were neither super amazed or dismally disappointed.

People can be wonderful, but they can also be horrid. The same jerks who probably paid us burgeoning writers to do their THREE-PAGE paper for them because writing WAS SO HARD are the same people who’ll write a FIVE-PAGE evisceration review.

I don’t make the rules.

To be clear, I am not talking about negative reviews that are thoughtful and concise about what in particular the reader didn’t like. I’m talking about the turd-slinging that serves no purpose other than playing high-and-mighty while being needlessly cruel.

Jerks Happen

Rejection, trolls, internet bullies

Rejection, trolls, internet bullies

Sometimes I wish I had a “SMITE” button so I could zap these trolls (obviously with slightly-less-than-lethal electricity) so as to remind them that there is a living, breathing person on the other side of their ugly character assassination review. A writer whose ONLY goal was to inform or entertain.

We get it. The author missed the mark. No need to be a troglodyte.


Sadly, though. I do not have that button or I’d protect us all. But, I can’t. And, like my old blog post, you will have to be willing to stand, even if it feels as if you are alone.

Rejection sucks.

But here is a cool trick to help you keep perspective. I do this when I feel low. Go look up your all-time favorite books. The books you are certain are perfection on every page. Then look at the one and two star reviews and you will see the truth.

You cannot please everyone.

If you get a bad review, my advice is to listen and be teachable. Maybe they are onto something you didn’t see and can do better next time. If they’re just being a jerk, then you only need eleven more haters to technically be famous, so?

You’re welcome!

Rejection Defines and Refines Us

I am fairly certain many of y’all have been nodding along and that is great! But, you might want to keep this one bookmarked for a bad day. If you stay at this long enough, you’re going to have days that you wonder why you didn’t learn to be a dental assistant or why you left that exciting life in medical billing.

What were you THINKING?

When I decided to become a writer, my family didn’t talk to me for a year. I said, “I’ve thought this through and corporate sales is not for me. I want to be a writer.”

My family heard, “Blah blah, throwing away expensive college degree going to wear beret and write bad haiku, blah blah, writer, joining a cult, blah blah.”

DO NOT expect to get a lot of support outside of other writers. If you get it? Fabulous! But it’s good to hedge expectations. Even with all the social media that now connects us, this is STILL a lonely profession.

We write to deadlines. There is no clocking in and clocking out. As I mentioned earlier, most people will not believe what we do is actually WORK.

Because ANYONE can write 100,000 words with multiple POVs, character arc, plot arc, amazing dialogue and NO typos. Just like a grocery list!

Where was I?

Oh, yes. You will likely get knocked down but that is actually a good thing. When I started out, I was an ego-centric unteachable @$$ and writing taught me humility. Still have the scars.

But it also taught me that getting knocked down wasn’t the biggest deal. What mattered in the end was whether or not I got back up.

Is Rejection in Control?

Like the characters in our books, our wounds can be our best friends or our greatest enemies. When I wrote my “first novel,” I kid you not, it was 187,000 words long. I just kept on writing then finally thought, “Seems long enough. The end!”

I was too dumb to know what I didn’t know. When I attended my first writing group, I couldn’t wait for all the accolades. I just worried they’d be jealous that I was so naturally talented *hair flip*

THEN…I got my pages.

The bloooood! So much BLOOOOD!

Red pen, EVERYWHERE! I don’t think there was any white space left. I’d walked away from a sweet job with dental to pursue my dream only to find out I was a talentless hack!

I remember sobbing in my Honda Civic, blowing my nose with Taco Bell napkins because I hadn’t eaten anything that cost more than .99 for the previous six months.

It was decision time. Was I in or out?

How much did I really want to be a writer?

Apparently I wanted it a lot. A couple thousand blogs, several books (and a LOT of trolls) later, here I am. And you know what? Rejection still hurts like hell.

Even rejection that’s just in your head!

Just so y’all know, back in March, the 19th century stopped by to visit me. I caught frigging whooping cough.

Since I was presenting in Idaho in May—actually this weekend so…come see me?—I HAD to let my lungs heal if I hoped to make it there. The doctors said I was too close to getting full-blown pneumonia if I didn’t chill OUT (not my strong suit).

I couldn’t miss Idaho, because it is an INCREDIBLE conference featuring some of the greatest writers in our industry. So, if it wasn’t something on my phone, I pretty much shut down.

Problem is? I’ve missed blogging so long I’ve been literally afraid to POST. I feel like a total failure…as if I really had any control over the last eight weeks. And the GUILT! So much guilt.

What kind of special nonsense thinking is that?

***Thank you to Merry and Mimi and Mary and all the others who kept pestering me to post. I love you ladies.

See, my confession should give y’all hope that all these years later, I am STILL learning! I’m writing these posts for me as much as you.

What Are Your Thoughts on Rejection?

Oh the tales of rejection! I’ve been dumped on Valentine’s Day…twice. In the 90s, I worked for a tech company. One week after my boss told me how much she valued me…she fired me. Talk about blind-sided.

Security walked me and my potted plant out of the building in front of everyone.

One time on Amazon, someone gave me a one-star review because they bought my book by mistake.

I could go on, but y’all have been there. We put all the heartbreak and triumph in our stories. The jobs we lost, the love that failed, the friends we thought would be there forever…until we had to dislodge that knife from our back.

It’s life. The sweet is only sweet because of the bitter.

So what about you guys? Any tales of rejection? Reviews that made you question humanity? Rejection letters with your name misspelled? Do you put those people in books too? Have you let rejection refine you or define you?

And just a reminder for anyone who can make it. Better late than never!

Kristen Lamb

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Kristen Lamb