Reframing rejection


One of my coffee-stained notebooks from my last staff job. Laid off, not fun!


By Caitlin Kelly

Rejection to a writer is like blood to a surgeon — a messy and necessary part of every working day.

— Anonymous


Does anyone anywhere relish rejection? Not really.

I recently interviewed for a dream job — didn’t get it. I applied for a very well paid corporate job and was interviewed, didn’t get it. Jose and I both applied for very good journalism jobs at major outlets in D.C.

Not even an interview.

So, yeah, we’re quite familiar with the concept!

My first two books were each rejected by 25 publishers before a major NYC house took each one on. So, even after a lot of rejection, you can achieve a goal.

If you don’t give up.



My first book, published in 2004. As someone who grew up with no exposure to guns, I was deeply intrigued by this most American of obsesssions



An interesting piece by Adam Grant  on this topic in The New York Times:

A good starting point is to remove, “It’s not you, it’s me” from your vocabulary. Sometimes it really is them! But the real reason to ban that phrase is because most of the time when we get rejected, it’s not you. It’s not me either. It’s us.

Rejection often happens because of a lack of fit in the relationship: Your values were a mismatch for that interviewer, your skills didn’t quite suit that job, your ratty conference T-shirts failed to overlap with the taste of your decreasingly significant other. New research reveals that when people are in the habit of blaming setbacks on relationships instead of only on the individuals involved, they’re less likely to give up — and more motivated to get better.

It also helps to recognize that our lives are composed of many selves…When one of your identities is rejected, resilience comes from turning to another identity that matters to you.

This is the only way I’ve really stayed sane through so many rejections.

While American life is determined to reduce us all to more productive automatons, who feel guilty if we do anything that’s not income producing, we are all so much more than that!

When my ideas are rejected — as they are all the time,  by which I mean every week, sometimes every day! —


I’m still:


— a much beloved wife

— a welcomed neighbor

— a valued friend

— a member of my spin class

— a member of my church

— a wise contributor to many on-line writing groups where others seek advice

— athletic and flexible and strong

— multi-lingual

— a traveler

— a very good cook and hostess

It looks as though my latest book proposal will get looked at by an editor. I should be more excited, but until it sells, if it does, I’m holding my fire.

It was roundly rejected last year by multiple agents, which — I admit — left me really frustrated and dejected.


How well do you handle rejection?

13 thoughts on “Reframing rejection

  1. It’s tough, but I’m getting better at it. My latest take is that each rejection frees me to do something else that may be far more rewarding.

  2. I’m currently chasing my dream to get into my dream college. But I’m really afraid of rejection. However, I read this and I really needed it, to be honest. Thank you!

    1. I am delighted if this was helpful!

      I know that often the “dream” anything is very difficult to let go of if it doesn’t happen. But I have had so many experiences now that sometimes the “dream” , even when you get it, proves less alluring up close.

      Best wishes!

  3. Self-publish, Caitlin. Agents are history. I’ll be self-publishing my memoir and am already enjoying the learning curve, not to mention the total control I have over the entire project plus the creative fun of designing (with a professional designer) the book cover, layout, etc.

  4. I just sigh and keep working on finding a home for my stories. There are about twenty different ways to get a story out there. Some are better than others, but you gotta keep at it, because eventually something will connect.
    I just hope that when they come out, they’re well-received.

  5. I’m going to bookmark this entry. One of the reasons I like reading your blog is seeing how strong and resilient while dealing with all of the pressures. Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Thanks!

      I am not sure what the alternative is, really. I cry sometimes and feel shitty for a while…but our life is such a limited time —- and all we have! Every minute wasted on self-pity is a minute wasted.

      Lucky to have had hard-ass parents who showed me this as well.

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