We’ve had a lot of people off work lately, which means I’ve been asked to step in and help out delivering some workshops in schools. I actually really enjoy doing things like that it – it’s something new to try, I get to learn different skills and I also get out of the office, win! One of the workshops I helped out with recently was all about having a growth mindset, which gave me the idea for this post.
For those of you who may not of heard of this before, a growth mindset is where you believe intelligence and skills can be developed, you embrace challenges, learn from criticism and – most important in relation to this post – persist in the face of setbacks. The other mindset you can have is called a fixed mindset which, as you can probably guess, is where you believe your intelligence is fixed, you give up easily, don’t challenge yourself and feel threatened by the success of others. I first heard about growth vs fixed mindset when I worked in a primary school a few years ago and it literally blew my mind – in fact, I would credit this philosophy with giving me the push I need to finish my first book. However, I also have to confess, I often find myself slipping into a fixed mindset when I’m feeling low or anxious or – and stick with me here, I’m finally getting to the point – have been rejected.
Rejection is never easy. Whether you didn’t get the job after what you thought was a great interview, or the tenth agent in a row says not to your novel, or hell, even if your dog won’t come see you for hug after you’ve had a bad day – rejection stings in all kinds of ways.
Lately, it feels like I’ve had to deal with a lot of rejection and as someone who’s also a HSP, I have to consciously remind myself that rejection isn’t personal. It’s no reflection on me or my abilities; it’s just that perhaps I wasn’t a right fit for that company or agent or whatever. But sometimes it can be really hard to remember this and I end up getting caught in a negative thought spiral – so I thought it was time to change my mindset back to being a growth mindset rather than fixed.
I could write an entire blog post on growth mindset, but that isn’t what I wanted to focus on today – today, I want to share with you the various forms of rejection I’ve faced over the past few months and years. Why? Because I think it’s super important for other writers and authors out there – whether you’re on your first novel or your twentieth – to remember that you’re not alone when you’re rejected. It literally happens to every single writer. And while it might FEEL like the end of the world, or that no one will ever read or like your work – that’s not true. Rejection is something we can, and should, all learn from – it’s not personal, it doesn’t mean you won’t ever be published or won’t ever get a job or whatever – it just means that you have to take whatever lessons you can learn from the situation, and then try again.
Take, for example, my first novel, Synthetica. Way back in 2015 when I finished the novel, I began submitting it to agents – and I got rejected by every single one. Now, here’s where I still can’t decide if I showed a growth mindset or not – I decided to self-publish my novel instead, which I guess shows I wasn’t willing to give up, but do you want to know how many agents I submitted to before throwing in the towel? Five. FIVE! That’s nothing!! There are authors out there who get rejected literally hundreds of times and don’t give up!!
I’m actually a little embarrassed to admit that, but hey, we’re all friends here and also, like I said, I want to be completely honest about my rejections. I’m also hoping I can look back at this post whenever I’m feeling down/once I start sending out my fantasy novel to agents and the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ emails start rolling in, that I can be reminded that rejection isn’t the end of the road. Sometimes if you really want something, you just have to grit your teeth and keep going.
More recently, I’ve come up against other forms of rejection:
Arts Council ‘Develop Your Creative Practice’ funding – I applied for this funding to help me research my fantasy series in more depth and to develop stronger ties to the British Fantasy Society. Alas, they rejected me, citing ‘other projects were preferred’. On the plus side, applications reopen in September so I’ve already decided to resubmit.
Job redundancy – this was/still is a tough one. I actually received word in the same week as I got rejected for the DYCP funding that my job was up for redundancy so yeah, that was a super fun week, mentally speaking. It’s weird – I knew when I took the job that it was for a one year contract, so redundancy was always a possibility, but it still didn’t stop it hurting like hell. Luckily, I was able to submit a justification for my job and argue why I should stay – that, along with feedback from the rest of the team, means that they’ve decided to keep me on part time 3 days a week instead. So I guess that rejection ended up being a win in the end.
Job interviews – I’ve had three interviews in the last few weeks and have been rejected for two of them (still no word from the third one, so not holding out much hope). The first one was for a publisher, and I would’ve absolutely loved that job – I put so much effort into my interview presentation and tried so hard…but in the end, ‘the standard of interviewees was exceptionally high,’ and they could ‘only take forward a very few candidates to the second round of interviews’. The second interview was…weird. I won’t go into too much detail or else I’ll rant about it all day, but in the end they told me they went for one of the guy’s friends instead (from a HR perspective, I don’t actually know how legal that is, but as I wasn’t too fussed about the position anyway, let them crack on).
So yeah, the last few weeks/months have been a little tough – but seeing it all down on paper (or screen) is actually quite cathartic. In my mind, I was facing a mountain of rejection that felt like, at times, it was impossible to climb over; but seeing it all written down makes me realise it’s not as bad as I thought. As I said earlier, everyone faces rejection – what I have to do now is reflect on what went well/not so well and how I can apply what I’ve learnt to future applications/interviews/novels.
This post is getting a little too long now, so here’s what I’m gonna do – I’m gonna set up a new post specifically for any agent rejections I receive. I’m gonna share the ones I already have for Synthetica, but once I’m ready to send out my fantasy novel, I’ll start adding those to the list too. That way, I’ll have a nice little list of all my rejections that I can look back on and remind myself that a) everyone faces rejection and b) success is an iceberg. Hopefully, for any writers out there reading this, it’ll inspire you to keep going too.
Here’s one last piece of advice I learnt all those years ago in that primary school that we taught every child and which I feel sums up the growth mindset idea perfectly – whenever anyone said ‘I can’t do it’, we always replied ‘you can’t do it…yet.’ Try it – the next time you get rejected or feel down and tell yourself you can’t do it, try adding that ‘yet’ to the end of your sentence and see what a difference it can make.
What rejections have you faced lately? How did you overcome them? Would you ever share your agent rejections with anyone? How do you feel about adding ‘yet’ onto the end of your sentences?