Repurposing Rejections & [Harsh] Criticism

I’ve started collecting rejection letters. Stephen King slapped them on an old nail in a beam; I put them in a specially reserved E-mail folder. Since I’ve been collecting the letters, I’ve realized that they don’t tell me anything. Rejection letters are usually one-size-fits-all automated form letters. For me, they’re a checklist. A tally.

They create a vacuum of WHY. In the hunt for WHY, I began to eat criticism right up.

Criticism hurts. Of course it does. It’s hard to separate criticism of ME and criticism of WRITING. These are some of the critiques that I’ve gotten so far:
  • Forced waves don’t flow.
  • Yeah but, what’s the point?
  • It’s got flavor but no depth.
  • It’s not gripping. There’s nothing to take away from it.
  • POV is wrong.

Kill Bill (2004)
Kill Bill (2004) – Pai Mei is an excellent teacher, but not a kind one.

If I were a painter, it would be like hearing, “You’ve figured out which end of the brush to hold, but these colors just don’t work together.” At first, all you hear are the words DON’T WORK. But if you listen carefully, you hone in on COLORS and TOGETHER. You see not only where the issue is, but exactly how to fix it.

Any time I talk to a published author, I ask them “What’s the most hurtful piece of criticism that you’ve grown from?” Everyone has a story.

There was always a time when everything went wrong and they had to pick themselves up. They absorbed the criticisms, played with them, and applied them.
  • Christopher Moore (Lamb) doesn’t write dumb blonde heroines anymore.
  • Neil Gaiman (American Gods) used a derisive Monty Python comparison as the billing for his book “Good Omens.”
  • Peter Beagle (The Last Unicorn) was cruelly rejected by someone who later submitted poems for his approval. It re-enforced how important it is to be gracious in this industry.

Be open to critique, even if it hurts. When someone tells you THIS IS NOT WORKING, translate it into THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS. Then, try them out.

“Beware of what flatters you…the only real education comes from what goes counter to you.”
— Andre Gide

Find what you are afraid of, face it, and then you won’t be afraid of it anymore.”
― Marilyn Manson


6 thoughts on “Repurposing Rejections & [Harsh] Criticism

  1. Setsu

    I’m glad! I think we’re taught to fear and be shamed by failure, rather than learn from it. The tiniest shift in perspective makes all the difference.

    1. redcapslice Post author

      Exactly. Anger is a reaction to some kind of line being crossed — it’s how we protect ourselves. Sometimes our ego draws lines where there shouldn’t be.


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