Globe Syndicate

for release Friday January 2, 2004

Another Way

by Melodie Davis

Dealing With Rejection Or Disappointment

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas? Were your children all happy?

In our local area, someone advertising gifts for pets in a radio commercial recommended buying something for your dog because they are always delighted with whatever you get—they never coyly ask if you saved the receipt.

We often face January with disappointments like gifts that were a poor fit, bills we allowed to run up, and a long stretch of work or school until spring or summer vacation.

How well do you bounce back after disappointment or discouragement? Hopefully it doesn’t take long to bounce back after minor disappointments like gifts. However, other disappointment such as being turned down by your first choice of colleges, being laid off, or losing a job are much harder to deal with.

As a writer, one of the things you learn to handle very early is rejection. Most writers send out lots and lots of manuscripts for articles, or book proposals which are never published. There are millions of wanna-be writers marketing everything from bad poetry to sci-fi novels to how-to articles for magazines. And so most times when you send out an article or book proposal, it is returned to you. So you get used to facing rejection. I learned early on not to take it personally.

As a writer-turned editor, one of the most difficult parts of my job is rejecting the work of other writers. I can’t possibly use everything that is sent to me, and therefore must return much excellent writing. Being an editor helps me understand why writers shouldn’t take it personally. Usually the piece of writing is perfectly fine, but doesn’t quite match the particular niche, audience, style of the publications I’m editing. Or it is similar to other pieces we’ve used recently. There are far more articles and authors out there than outlets: I can only use about 64 articles out of the 500-800 a year we receive.

Now, I’m a soft touch, so I feel terrible sending out rejection letters. Since I have been on the receiving end of rejection letters, I know how hard it is to take rejection.

Most people don’t have to deal with this kind of daily rejection—either giving it or receiving it, but maybe we can glean some insights that are helpful for anyone:
1. Don’t take it personally. Usually if you are turned down for a job, college, or even a marriage proposal, you yourself are not being discounted or rejected as a person. Usually there are too many other applicants, and others had a better match for whatever it was. In marriage, usually the problem, as it goes in the cliché, “The problem is not you, it’s me.” As infuriating as that line is, believe it. You’ll sleep easier. And how much better to know it now than in ten years.
2. Always have some other option in the hopper: when applying for jobs, have two or three applications in process so that if you get turned down for one, you can still hold out hope for another. Apply to five or six schools. And while I wouldn’t say you should have five or six marriage proposals lined up, the other old idiom is also true, (that my mother had the nerve to tell me when I was dumped by my first major love): “There are other fish in the sea.”
3. Ask yourself, “What can I learn from this rejection?” Sometimes, even though you needn’t take it personally in terms of feeling they are rejecting you as a person, there are things you can/should learn. Should I change my resume, or my references? Do I have bad habits or personal quirks? Should I be less gabby, or not be so shy and retiring?
4. So many things depend on timing, knowing the right person, being in the right place at the right time. None of these things should reflect on you personally.
5. There is usually a better option out there. Maybe you haven’t worked hard enough, researched enough, or gotten enough experience. Or whatever. Those who are religious usually feel that God has something else in mind for them. And usually, they are right.
6. Get back on the horse. The axiom for freelance writers is to turn around a piece of writing the same day: send it off to another magazine. By doing that, you immediately replace sadness with new hope. Apply for three more jobs. Start looking for a new boyfriend.
Finally, if all of these suggestions strike you as just too superficial, I plan to tackle the topic of dealing with serious depression, mental illness and suicide later this spring.

You can still request a wall calendar for 2004 as a Christmas gift from Another Way. Or, if you have any stories or suggestions you’d like to share for my series on depression and mental illness, send to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail:

You can also visit Another Way on the Web at

Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.

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