The Phases of Critique and Rejection

Disclaimer: all of these statements are based on my own experience. Not everyone will experience all of these phases (although I’m guessing most people will or have experienced at least one or two of them!)

The Phases of Critique

  1. Too shy to ask. You want desperately for people to read your work and praise it, but on the off chance it actually sucks, you keep it close to your chest and only share with people like your mom, who has to say she likes it even if she doesn’t. You can’t handle critique or rejection at this stage.
  2. Shy but curious. Over time, you realize your Mom’s feedback isn’t enough for you. You’re ready for someone else to tell you it’s good stuff, so you get over your fear of negative feedback and put it out there. Maybe to other friends, writing friends, or maybe you take a creative writing class.
  3. Burned. You finally put yourself out there, and the results were less than satisfactory. People gave you mediocre praise, or worse, offered suggestions for improvement. You feel like your baby is under attack, and you clutch it protectively to your chest, wondering what the hell they even know anyway. You stew for weeks, months, or years.
  4. Determined. Finally, you get over the mean things people said about your blood, sweat, and tears. You’ve had some space from it since writing it, and you can see that maybe people weren’t crazy when they made suggestions on how to improve it. So you try again. You write something better, fixing all the mistakes you made in the last thing you wrote. You send it back out there for people to read. Some like it, some don’t, some offer suggestions, but this time it doesn’t hurt as much. So you try again. And keep trying.
  5. Ready. You no longer flinch at the prospect of other people reading your work. At this point, you’ve received enough feedback that you know what to listen to and what to discard, and you’ve honed your craft so you’re actually decently good, and people aside from your Mom have told you this. At this point, you feel like you’re not just doing it for fun anymore, you might actually like to put your work out there for actual readers. So you begin submitting to publishers/agents.

This leads to the Phases of Rejection.

  1. Submission: almost pee your pants when you hit submit. Obsessively check inbox for response from publisher, even if wait time is upwards of three to six months.
  2. Rejection: when you finally get that long-expected “no thanks,” you shrug it off and say it’s no big deal. Tell yourself all sorts of platitudes like “it wasn’t right for them” or “better luck next time” so you don’t fall into a horrible depression.
  3. Fall into a horrible depression. Wonder if you should even call yourself a writer. Break up with writing for days or weeks or months.
  4. Acceptance. Finally, after days or weeks or months, you shake off the depression. You realize you are a good writer, and that all the platitudes you told yourself are actually true, not just banal words to ease the sting of rejection. So you buck up your courage, and try again. And keep trying. And hope that maybe someday, when the timing is right, the response will actually be acceptance, not rejection. And it will.

Sara is a Kansas-grown author of the fantasy and horror persuasions. She is convinced that fantastical things are waiting for her just around the corner, and until she finds the right corner, she writes about those things instead.

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