Shrink Is In: Fear of Rejection

I've had several emails from some wonderful readers. The theme of many of them is their fear to tackle writing and submitting. So, the shrink is in. Deposit your nickel in the tin cup then we'll talk about Fear of Rejection.

Many times we want something really bad, but somehow we never manage to take the action that will lead to achievement. Why? We're afraid. This kind of fear is nebulous but pervasive. It's something we don't really talk about in a meaningful way. We keep it hidden. Sure, we may make noises about it to our friends or our spouses, but we don't confront it head on. Why don't we? Is it because we think it's silly? Do we think as adults we shouldn't even admit that we have this kind of free-floating anxiety about something that isn't really real?

Have this conversation with yourself if you're letting fear keep you from doing something or achieving something you really want.

I've (insert something you've done that would lead to goal achievement - for this exercise I'll use written a manuscript) but I haven't (insert action to be taken - for this exercise I'll use submitted the manuscript).

Why not?

{Shrug shoulders.} I don't know. I guess I'm afraid.

Of what?

I don't know. What if the agent doesn't like it?

What if she doesn't? What will happen if she doesn't?

She'll say no.

If she says no, what does that mean to you?

{Shrug shoulders.} I don't know.

Well let's think about what her refusal means?

Does it mean big burly men armed with Glocks will descend upon your house and haul you away in chains?

Well, no.

Does it mean your name will be published on the front page of major newspapers as having written something that wasn't accepted.?


Does it mean CNN, Nancy Grace, O'Reilly, Oprah, and all the notable talking heads will announce it on their respective television shows?


Does it mean your spouse will divorce you? Your parents disown you? Your coworkers laugh at you? Your children refuse to identify you as their parent?

Of course not.

Does it mean you will be banned from ever writing anything again?


Does it mean you shouldn't ever try again?


If babies were afraid to ever try again after standing, trying to walk, and falling, there would be no adults in this world who could walk. We'd all be crawling.

You'd be kind and encouraging to a toddler who stood and fell. Be that kind to yourself. Don't give a rejection or a potential rejection or the thought of a rejection any more power over you than a "no thank you" should ever have because that's all a rejection is: no thank you.

Does a rejection mean you rose above the pack of wannabes and tried something and someone told you no?


Does it mean you should stand tall and proud because you actually took action to achieve something you wanted?


Takeaway Truth

A rejection is a badge of honor. It's proof that you took action to achieve. I've said it again and again. Every no is a down payment on a yes.


  1. I LOVE your line that "every no is a down payment on a yes." I am sending that to myself so I have it to take out, examine later and take to heart when I need to. Mary Patrick Kavanaugh is so fed up with rejection she's holding a funeral for her book (rejected more than 15 times, I think it is). She wrote a book -- autubiographical, no less -- about trying to create a great life with her criminal attorney husband who was out doing some crimes of his OWN.

    So there's a place for rejected authors to bury some projects (and, I would think, find solace and courage to try again).

  2. I think the word “Rejection” needs a darn good makeover. Perhaps replace it with a simple “No thanks”. Rejection has too many connotations attached that we’ve personally gathered over the years. I know I’d feel better receiving a No Thanks Slip for a story rather than a Rejection Slip any day. It’s just nicer, I guess.

    I’ve learnt over the years to combat this stigma by breaking down the process to what professional (or semi professional) writing really is – a business transaction. That way I’ve taken out the emotion, at least from my side. Let’s face it, when it comes to selling writing, there are two egos at play; the writer’s and the editor’s, so someone’s gotta give a little, and unless you’re Stephen King… well you know the score.

    I look at the process in three acts. Act 1: Write the first draft with all the passion and enjoyment you can muster, this act is for you and you alone. Act 2: Take a well earned breath and amend the final drafts for an editor (remember, it’s the business end now). Act 3: Lock your ego in that hat box under the desk and sell your product with the mindset of a salesperson, with the full knowledge that there’ll be more No Thanks, than Yes Pleases along the journey.

    And you’re right, Joan. With the exception of perhaps a minor paper cut to the finger, no one ever got seriously hurt by a Rejection Slip in the mail. Perhaps we need a new bumper sticker. “Remember, Rejection Slips don’t kill people. People kill people.”


    PS: Due to your kind offer a few days ago, I have added Sling Words to my Blog’s links. Cheers BMR.

  3. Good evening! Glad the therapy had resonance for you. I'd heard about Mary Patrick Kavanaugh's blog. She's got a great idea. Whenever I've decided to permanently shelve a manuscript, I've always announced to friends and family that a memorial service will be held followed by my choice of alcoholic beverage. Maybe I should invite the public to my next ritual. *g*.

    I sometimes refer to a rejection as a No Thank You because that's all it is. Someone is saying, "No, thanks. I don't think I can sell Your Current Greatest Novel." Give an agent or editor a project she/he thinks can be sold, and she/he will sell the hell out of it.

    It truly is a business transaction. More on this theme later.

  4. And the R's don't stop there. I now have an agent, and SHE has to deal with getting my rejections, plus those of others of her clients. That's gotta be depressing. It's not ONE person loving your work. It's a whole bunch of the right people who have to love it at exactly the same time, so just keep plugging away.