Thank the folks who’ve rejected you–a radical suggestion for writers this Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is upon us here in the U.S., and this is a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon gratitude, whether you celebrate the holiday or not. I’m a big fan of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin and also of Rabbi Shalom Arush, and I’m going to combine their approaches for this writing exercise appropriate to the Thanksgiving season and year-round. This exercise is useful whether you’re Jewish or not–please don’t get turned off to it just because it was inspired by a couple of rabbis.

mother offering child medicine

Be grateful for the medicine–it’s good for you.

Rejection is just about the hardest thing to cope with when you decide you’re going to become a writer, but it’s something that you need to learn to accept graciously. When that rejection letter first comes, you are often overwhelmed by feelings of resentment, anger, and frustration. You might lash out, calling the editors idiots or saying that the publisher doesn’t know what good writing is. You might despair, consider yourself a failure, or even give up writing.

But here’s the truth–you were meant to be rejected, at least in this specific instance. Whether you believe it was because of G-d or karma, rejection landed on your doorstep and you should appreciate it. Realizing this can be the first step to avoiding all that resentment, anger, and frustration that causes ulcers and keeps you up at night. It’ll also help you grow as a writer.

To those unaware of his work, Rabbi Pliskin’s specialty is reframing–creating counters to negative mindsets that hinder our happiness and growth. What you are going to do in this writing exercise is reframe your rejection letters. To take this one step further, Rabbi Arush suggests (in his book The Garden of Gratitude) that you should actually say thank you to G-d for sending you tests that are difficult and heartrending.

  1. Take out a pen and paper or open up your new word processing file.
  2. Write “My Thanksgiving Exercise” across the top of the page in big, bold letters.
  3. Draw a line vertically down the center of the page.
  4. Write down the details of at least one rejection letter to the left of the line. What had you submitted? Where did it go? Who sent the rejection letter and when did it come? How did it make you feel?
  5. Now, on the other side of the line, write the sentence, “Thank you for this rejection letter.”
  6. After that sentence, think about the details of the rejection letter. Consider, was there something about those details that explains why the rejection might have been in your best interest? For example, would that editor have edited away your unique voice? Is there a publisher that is a better match for your work out there waiting for you? Could the next publisher maybe offer more money or access to an audience you want to address? Have you been granted an opportunity to revisit your work? Did the letter point out a way to improve your submission? If you read it with fresh eyes, are there changes you’d like to make? Since you submitted, did you have an additional life experience that would add to the project before submitting again? Can you learn something about yourself–for example, that you need to learn to separate a person from their accomplishments?
  7. Now write at least one of these ideas down for each rejection letter you listed.

Every time you get a rejection letter, train yourself to do this exercise. You’ll find that it will enhance your performance at your craft, as well as lower your anxiety level when you submit your work.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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7 thoughts on “Thank the folks who’ve rejected you–a radical suggestion for writers this Thanksgiving

  1. Becca – This post is timely! I hope I don’t need the exercise soon. But if I do, you’ve provided the solution before the challenge! Thank you.

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  2. Becca, thank you so much for sharing these wise words. I will definitely try this with my last rejection letter. I only have one concern with your article. Why do you have trouble spelling God, but no trouble spelling kr-m-?

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    • Hi, Juliana,

      Thanks for dropping in again.

      G-d refers to a deity. Karma refers to a metaphysical concept (roughly corresponding to the Jewish one of “middah k’neged middah, which is in turn like the English expression “What goes around comes around.”).

      In Jewish law, the single G-d gets all sorts of special of His name because there destroying G-d’s name (by erasing, throwing away a document, things like that) is considered a sin (except in one case not applicable today), and we also want to show respect to the Creator.

      Thus, most Jews will refer to G-d in roundabout ways, such as calling Him “HaShem,” which literally means “The Name” in Hebrew, or by writing His name (even in translation) with hyphens or abbreviations.

      Hope this clarifies. Here’s a link to an article if you need more of an explainer: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/486809/jewish/Why-Gd-instead-of-G-o-d.htm

      Have a great Thanksgiving!

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