You discover your work’s been rejected… again.
Another rejection. Another staggering pain in your heart. Another sinking pit of defeat in your stomach. Immeasurable anxiety.
Maybe I’m a terrible writer.
Maybe I’m the only one receiving rejections.
Maybe I don’t belong here.
Maybe I should quit.
Perhaps you are just accepting yourself as a creative, convinced that you should only strive for success on your own terms. Or perhaps you are experienced, goal-driven, and so determined to succeed that, after that article, you stubbornly refused to revise any further was rejected multiple times, you become willing to do anything to get it published somehow. But as you sink into the far-reaching abyss of your obsessive tunnel vision, you find yourself trapped on a never-ending, directionless road, blissfully denying that the road you tread will lead you astray — away from the success you seek.
You discover that you walk a road to nowhere.
And then, as suddenly as you began the descent into a world seemingly based on measurable achievement alone — publication, popularity, and prolificity — you stop moving down the winding road that has trapped you for so long. As you come to a screeching halt, you discover that, in the process of finding your voice, you are losing yourself. You discover that you are solely seeking gratification in superficiality. You realize you have become so focused on wearing acceptances like a medal that you sacrifice your life story, but you simultaneously believe that you should pay no mind to how you share it. In your brutal, dissonant mental battle between altering your story and altering your storytelling — in your inability to seek a middle ground — you cannot fulfill your fullest potential.
As your fear of rejection consumes you and your reluctance to alter your work tears you apart, the story you yearn to share shatters. Bit by bit, you sculpt, paint, gloss, and smooth it of all imperfections, but in its grandiose form, your life story has morphed into something you can no longer place. It belongs to a stranger, perhaps, someone you have never met, but certainly not to you. As the lines between your story and your storytelling methods began to blur, colliding in shapeless, colorless monotony, the life you presume to know disintegrates, fading into obscurity.
By altering your story instead of altering your approach to sharing it, you are inadvertently committing a cardinal sin — breaking the longstanding rule nearly every writer strives to live by.
Never sell out.
In the face of rejection, the balance between your story and your artistic choices in telling your story may tilt askew. If you alter your life story itself in an attempt to please others, you become voiceless. You sell out. If you refuse to listen to advice that could improve your craft, you deny your true potential. You sell out. Rejection can easily breed either a fixation on solely receiving praise or a vehement denial that improvement is necessary, but true success is a balance, blossoming from within. Success is following your heart and believing in your capabilities, but it is also acknowledging that your fellow creatives provide valuable advice and only strive to help you improve your craft. Success is demonstrating personal integrity by sharing your story as honestly as possible, but it is also fostering a willingness to alter the techniques you use to present it. Success is knowing that, even in the face of rejection, you are talented and worthy of every opportunity you have received, but it is also recognizing that you must grow to reach your full potential. Success is never selling out on your artistry or your personal growth for the sake of opportunity, but it is also gracefully accepting rejection.
The moment you receive word of your latest rejection, resolve never again to tread down the road to nowhere, the path laced with pressure to alter your story itself instead of heeding the advice you receive on how you tell it. With a renewed vision and a changed perspective, smile and begin writing.
*Previously published by Thought Catalog at www.thoughtcatalog,com.