Halloween Special # 1: Fear of Rejection

I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.

Halloween is upon us, for some reason a holiday people associate with fear — rather than getting messed up on foreign substances. Kids get sugar high on candy. Teens and young adults get drunk on beer and shots. Adults end up sleep-deprived and running on pure adrenaline. I figure this makes this week as good as any to talk about one of the most common barriers to success for freelancers:


Today I want to focus specifically on fear of rejection. To freelance, especially as a writer, you have to send out countless proposals to potential clients. Some of them will ignore you completely. A few will contact you and give you work. Others will contact you, ask you to spend several hours on a more detailed sample of what you can do….then ignore you completely or send you a form “no thank you” letter. Bottom line: freelance writers get more rejection than acceptance. This is true no matter what kind of freelancing you do. Fear of rejection keeps some writers from ever submitting their work. It keeps others from making the money they could by limiting how many jobs they’re willing to apply for. Fear of rejection is the enemy, and you need to develop the tools to defeat that enemy. According to my sources, there are roughly three hundred and seventy five bajojozillion pages of self-help and sales books that claim to help you overcome this basic fear. I’ve tried much of that advice, and seen how it works in the fields of sales, freelancing and dating. After eliminating the snake-oil and bunk, I can boil the best advice down to one word:

submit your writing

Just do it. It’s easier than asking someone to dance. Less fraught with peril than trying to close a sale. You write that email or letter and send it off. Then you do it again.

  • No excuses.
  • No procrastinating.
  • Just.
  • Submit.
  • Your.
  • Writing.

Soon afterward, you’ll begin collecting rejection notes from publications throughout the world. A bit after that, you’ll start getting acceptance notes and money for your writing. The first rejections will sting — heck, I’d be lying if I said they don’t still sting. But they won’t have the power to send you into a deep blue funk after you’ve read your first few dozen.

It’s really that simple. Bite the bullet. Dive into the pool. Rip off the band-aid. The sooner you do it — and the more you keep doing it — the sooner it loses its power to sting.

Thanks for listening.

Writers out there — what’s your most ridiculous/embarrassing/amusing rejection story?

4 thoughts on “Halloween Special # 1: Fear of Rejection

  1. When I submitted my first book manuscript to agents, I used a form letter. I found out within a couple of weeks that I’d only replaced the names in the text in about half of them.


    There’s no better way to make sure your manuscript never sees a pair of eyes than to not even call the agent by the right name.

  2. I find it particularly annoying when an agent says that they’re “personally interested” in the book/story, but then reject it without a definitive reason. Why bother telling me they’re personally interested?
    I also shudder to think about the many typos and other mistakes I’ve made in queries that I don’t all ready know about . . . yikes.

  3. I’ve had an agent for years, so I don’t have quite the same set of anxieties. What can happen with me is that my agent and I agree on a proposal, I write it, and he sends it out. And then time passes. But that’s okay, because I generally have lots of stuff to work on.

    And time passes. And then the agent tells me, “I couldn’t sell it.”

    “What did they say?” I ask.

    “I’m not going to tell you, because if I did you’d slit your wrists.”

    And then maybe I’m supposed to think, “Hey, maybe my agent just saved me from suicide!”

    But that’s not what I think. What I think is, “There are a whole lot of editors who hate me, and I don’t even know who they are.”

  4. Thought I might add this “If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies… It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it.” – Albert Einstein

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