Thursday, February 28, 2019

Writing Rejection Doesn’t Define Who We Are

by Henry McLaughlin @RiverBendSagas

Rejection does not define who we are unless we let it. (Rene Gutteridge)

Rene Gutteridge is one of the major influencers in my writing life. From a critique at one of my first writers’ conferences to her teaching at conferences to her own novels and her blogs and articles on the craft, I have learned from her.

Recently, she wrote,“Rejection does not define who we are unless we let it.”

Shortly before I read this, I had received two rejections of within a few days from each other. One was from one of my dream agents. It was a project I had worked long and hard on. 

It hurt. A lot. When I examined what was behind the hurt, I discovered I had personalized both rejections—I’m not good enough. 

Finding Rene’s blog, The Worst Rejection in History  was the slap upside the head I needed. I didn’t like it. I wanted to reject her advice with a, “but you don’t understand.” Which was a lie of the devil. She’s experienced rejection just like I have, just like every writer whoever took the risk to submit.

Rejection is part of life. We don’t get the promotion we wanted. People expected more than we delivered whether it’s a school or work assignment or a gift to a spouse or parent. Maybe one of our kids enters a life style of drugs; rejecting the values we taught them. 

Whatever it is, we always have the opportunity to personalize the rejection. 

I’m not good enough could be our motto.

If we let it.

For a few days, I let these rejections define who I was. 

Fortunately, I am blessed with a loving wife and supportive writing friends. And a God who loves me and has a plan for me.

I’m not defined by rejection unless I let it.

It’s my choice. I can live in fear of rejection or in fear of regret. (Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church)

My wife and my friends wouldn’t let me dwell in the rejection. God wouldn’t let me sink into the depression that the devil wanted to cast over me. 

Rejection can do two things, if I let it. It can stop me to the point where I give up. Or it can teach me to examine my self and my work to learn and grow from it. This can only happen when I turn to God, when I pray and listen.

He still has a plan for me. A good plan for my future (Jeremiah 29:11).

It’s my choice. 

I choose to follow him.

How do you handle rejection? 

Writing rejection doesn't define who we are - wisdom from Henry McLaughlin, @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

It's vital for a writer to learn how to handle rejection - Henry McLaughlin, @RiverBendSagas on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Henry’s debut novel, Journey to Riverbend, won the 2009 Operation First Novel contest.

Henry edits novels, leads critique groups, and teaches at conferences and workshops. He enjoys mentoring and coaching individual writers.

Connect with Henry on his blogTwitter and Facebook.


  1. Amen Mr. Henry. We are not "rejected." Our work may sometimes be. Our efforts may fall short now and again. Still, we are called to be "Writers of Light" as our friend Mrs. Audrey Frank so aptly penned. If Christ Himself was rejected, should we expect less? Writing rejections, although sometimes a bitter pill, are signals for me to find ways to learn and improve more. What a great post sir. God's blessings; and please do this world a favor, and keep writing my friend.

    1. Thank you, Jim. I appreciate your encouraging words to keep writing.

  2. Well said. Not only is rejection not a rejection of us as individual writers but also one (or even two or three or four or. . . ) rejection does not mean the end of the line for anything we write. Case in point: one of my proposals was rejected by two publishers before a third publisher asked to see the complete manuscript--and then rejected it. Yet, I sent it out to a fourth publisher--and got a contract for its publication! It takes perseverance if you believe in the writing and are patient and willing to wait on God's timing. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I meant a writer once who recorded a spreadsheet that showed 70 rejections before he landed an agent. Talk about perseverance.

  3. Another great post, Henry. Thanks, man.
    Jay Wright; Anderson, SC

  4. Thank you. This is very enlightening...

    1. I'm blessed my writing spoke into you. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. So true, Henry! Rejections are hard, but we can't let it define us. I cannot tell you how many times I've received rejections over the years, but after sulking for a day or two or three, I go back to the drawing board and keep pressing forward. God's got this. All I have to do is be obedient to the calling he's placed on my life, learn from each rejection, and keep submitting.

    1. You hit on 3 key points, Loretta:
      Be obedient to God and his calling.
      Learn as much as possible from each rejection.
      Keep on keeping on until God tells us something different.

  6. Also, I think we should consider the source of the rejection. I was dismayed at a rejection (ridicule) of a Christian children's book I'm working on. Then I remembered that a secular, critique author who writes about demons and dragons would not appreciate my kids learning truth from the Bible in their adventures and misadventures.

    1. Good point, Jackie. And you raise an interesting topic, one I think we all need to ponder. Who, as Christian authors, are we writing for? Who is our target audience? The saved? Or the lost? Our decision will drive how we write--the words we use, the characters we create, our plots, etc.