Facing My First Creative Writing Rejection

It must be humbling to suck on so many levels.
– Dr. Sheldon Cooper, Big Bang Theory

Last month, I submitted an entry to a minor writing contest in a major publication. It was an exercise in stepping outside my comfort zone and part of my writer’s resolutions for 2013.

As an experienced copywriter, I can take rejection. Thanks to some heavy hits over the years, I’ve learned to bounce back with the speed, grace and agility of Cirque du Soleil performer playing a panther. (Practice pays off where you least expect it.)

But this was my first rejection of my creative work. And this ride was about as much fun as getting stuck on top of a Ferris wheel while pigeons poop on your head. Screw the view; I just felt crapped on.

First, there was elation (!!!!!!!)
I went to the magazine’s website and saw it. A new winner. With the same title as mine. I thought my entry had won.

I can’t wait ‘till to tell everyone!!! MY TIME HAS COME!!!!!!!!!

Then, there was confusion (????)
I read on…you know…into the actual content. There may have been audible screeching as my brain ground to a halt.

Hey, wait a minute. This doesn’t look like mine. Did they edit it for their readership or something?

Finally came reality ($#&!)
Despite the matching title, the winning entry actually belonged to another writer. I’d never considered that someone else would submit an entry with the same title.

The internal dialogue that goes here does isn’t language I want to use on Rubber Ducky Copywriter. So please just imagine a Donald Duck temper tantrum.

I knew that my first entry to such a major publication would likely be rejected. But like any writer, I still harbored a tiny spark of hope that it could defy the odds.

When my little spark of hope was shot down in a blaze of glory, I had three choices.

Option 1: Shrivel into nothingness. I could wallow in a self-made mud pit of despair from which nothing would ever emerge but my pitiful wails and vow to never again grace paper with word. But that would mean finding a different line of work. And I love being a writer. So Option 1 is out.

Option 2: Shun the magazine. What good would that do? This fabulous publication provides equally fabulous resources, inspiration and opportunities to over 100,000 writers around the world, including me. I’m a bigger ducky than that and above such self-sabotaging pettiness. Okay, that and I just renewed my subscription. Nix Option 2.

Option 3: Put on my big-duck undies and sally forth. Here I fully admit that the winning entry is, in almost every respect, better than mine. It absolutely deserves the honor. Second, I haven’t been barred from the contest (which is ongoing), so there’s nothing to stop me from trying again.

I’m putting this contest on my permanent list of goals. I’m also going to frame my first entry and hang it in my office because even though it didn’t bring home the ribbon, I’m still proud of it. And I’m proud of myself for having the courage to submit it.  I choose Option 3.

Besides, getting that first big disappointment out of the way makes you realize that writer’s rejection won’t kill you.

Have you suffered writer’s rejection lately? How did you get through it and what are your next steps?

15 thoughts on “Facing My First Creative Writing Rejection”

  1. thank you for following me! I followed ya right back! I am sorry to hear that your writing creative entry did not win, however, I think you are taking it very well. It’s wonderful to frame it and to realize that even that you did not make it this time..you may the next! Remember, even hero’s fall off their horse. To get to where someone wants to be it’s almost inevitable that they fail first. Failing makes you stronger, helps you learn, and challenges how badly you want something. Don’t give up!

    1. Hi there – Welcome to Rubber Ducky!

      Thank you very much for the kind words of encouragement. And you’re exactly right—everyone who’s ever made it to the top falls a few (hundred?) times on the way up. As long as you learn from it, which I have, it’ll just make you smarter.

      Nope, not giving up. Too stubborn. 😉

      P.S. Cute puppy.

  2. Erica, it’s funny, although rejection always hurts, the rejection itself isn’t the thing that really gets to me. It’s the wasted time and effort I invested in putting together a pitch that I fret about much, much more.

    Still, you can’t win ’em all + there’s plenty more that you will win.

  3. I really love the honesty in this post. I think the worst part about this situation is thinking you were the winner at first.

    But I think the best part of this post is that you conquered it. Sure, rejection sucks but that doesn’t mean your career is over. You’ve learned that you are stronger than you and can handle it all. I’ve found that every “no” is the beginning of a new relationship. So keep going don’t give up. You’ll get the prize in due time.

    1. Hi Terri,

      Thanks! For the kind words and the encouragement. They really mean a lot. Good news is that I got over the upset in a few days and am already crafting my next piece.

      We’re writers. We need to do this whether it brings home any glory or not. And personally, I’m enjoying it.

  4. Hi,
    I totally understand the frustration at having your work rejected and that your response is definitely natural (You never know, maybe you could use this experience as inspiration for your next piece of creative work?) I have submitted to a bunch of literary journals and it is almost always a little bit of a let down, even now, when I get that sparse little letter in my inbox. The way that I deal is by saving the work and the reasons that they rejected the work (if you are lucky enough to get anything) and then I tell myself to come back to it later. I also have formed a Rejection Letter Club with some of my fellow writers and friends and we are competing to see who will have the most rejections by the end of the year. It’s nice because it puts a fun spin on getting rejected, but also still keeps you motivated to try again. I love your writing voice so I am sure that you will get an something accepted. Good luck and good job!

    1. Hi there – welcome to Rubber Ducky Copywriter!

      I didn’t get any reasons why they didn’t choose my piece but after comparing mine with the winner, it’s pretty obvious. The winner is a fantastic piece, well-written and obviously crafted by someone who hasn’t let their creative writing slide for several years. Mine, not so much. But I still love it.

      I love the idea of competing to get the most rejection letters. It makes you put yourself out there more. Brilliant. When you get the acceptance letter (and I’m sure it’s on its way), let us know. Would love to read your work.

      And thank you so much for the compliment on my writing voice! You just made my day. 🙂

  5. Hi Erica,
    One of the good things about this is that there won’t be another first rejection – you’ve done it and now you’re moving on. And you were brave enough to try, while others are still on the fence about submitting anything at all. You’re now one submission closer to your next published piece, so keep writing!

    1. Hi Sandra,
      You’re right, the first one is out of the way. And thank you for the kind words. Yup, I’ve already started drafting my next piece. Onward and upward! It’s all part of being a writer. 😉

  6. Thanks for stopping boy my blog! I love the Sheldon quote! 🙂 I tried to shun a writing mentor when she rejected a blog post…but yeah, she’s everywhere. I think I may have actually got her to like a post now, LOL

    1. And thanks for stopping by my blog! 🙂

      Yeah, funny how things work out, huh? Rejection isn’t always so bad – it gives you something to fight for. Or someone to prove wrong. Whatever works.

      BTW, I poked around your blog a bit and love your honesty. Can’t wait to read more.

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