Do You Handle Rejection Like Stephen King?

Stephen King, one of today’s most prolific horror writers, has sold over 350 million copies of his novels and short stories. But he also received plenty rejections.

In the book “On Writing” he explains that whenever he received a rejection, he would stick it on a nail. After a few years, the nail would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips and he replaced it with a spike and kept right on writing and submitting. Carrie, one of his most famous novels, received 30 rejections before it was published.

How about you? Has someone thrown mud at a project or something you created?

Perhaps you’ve spent hours labouring over a task, and you’re proud of the result. Or you were. Until that comment. Or that email. Now you feel devastated, a failure, as if you don’t ever want to look at it again.

  • Maybe it’s something you’ve written.
  • Perhaps it’s a cake you baked for your son’s school fete.
  • Possibly you gave a talk, and you thought it went well.

Then you received this negative feedback.

Whatever we are, wherever we go, whichever project we tackle, we are going to face naysayers; people who seem to think they have been appointed to find fault in everyone’s efforts. So how do you handle this without allowing it to destroy you?

1. Listen carefully to your antagonist’s words and jot down the key points. Or re-read the email or letter and highlight the main areas of concern.

2. Next ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there any truth in these comments?
  • Is there something positive I could do to improve the situation?
  • Is there something I am doing wrong, that I need to address?
  • Is there a lesson for me to learn, that would improve what I’m trying to achieve?

If your answer to any of these is “Yes”, then learn from it. Sort out the issue if you are able to do so, or make a point of remembering to do it differently next time.
If the person is on email, it might be an idea to send a brief but polite thank you for pointing it out and assure him or her you have taken steps to address the matter. Keep it short, and don’t open the door to further discussion.
Don’t get into a verbal dispute with the person. It won’t help, and will only make you vulnerable for further hurt and rejection.

More questions:

  • Is he or she lashing out at me, because of something in his or her own life?

If you suspect this is the case, drop him a quick note. Thank him for taking the time to respond, and wish him a pleasant day.
Make a deliberate effort to move on. Put the rejection behind you, and look for the positive in the situation.

Decide what you’ve done well, and give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done. You did the best you could. Now tackle the next step or project.

Personally, I work through my rejections, smart a little, maybe allow myself to get a big angry, okay maybe sometimes very angry, then I work through them as above.

But no, I don’t put them on a stake. Where I want to remember any lessons I’ve learned, I don’t want to remember the feeling of being rejected.

How about you? How do you handle rejection? Do you stick them on a stake on the wall? Do you remember them, or do you screw them up and toss them in the trash? What works for you?