Dear Sherry: Thin-Skinned

Dear Sherry,

I don’t know if I can take it any more. I’ve been submitting stories for a few years now, but I keep getting rejections.

I’ve read the magazines I submit to so I know what the editors like, and yet they reject me. I’ve been taking classes and have been working hard to improve my writing, but I still get rejected. Most of them are form rejections, which I almost prefer over the supposedly “good” rejections, where the editor tells you how much they loved the story, but no, they don’t want it. It is so frustrating!

I know I’m not supposed to take it personally, but how can I not when it is my soul poured into these stories? Every no hurts so much, and makes me question everything I write. It’s to the point where I feel like giving up completely. Except that I don’t want to quit writing. I still want to get my work published. Am I crazy to be pursuing this because I’m just too thin-skinned to be a writer?

What am I supposed to do?




Dear Thin,

The life of a writer requires us to have a bit of a split personality. For the actual writing process of getting the words on the page in a creative way, we must be vulnerable and willing to pour our heart and soul into our work. When it comes to the business side, we must be tough-as-nails, letting the criticism and rejection roll off of us. This dichotomy doesn’t work for a lot of people. I think it is why a lot of creative people quit, or never take their work public. They prefer to keep their creativity for themselves because they don’t want to face the pain of rejection and criticism. It is a perfectly valid choice to keep your work to yourself. If that’s what you want.

But you clearly don’t want to keep it to yourself. If you want your work published, you have to keep submitting. Self-publishing allows you to skirt around rejections from editors, but you will still face the possibility of bad reviews and harsh criticism or worse, no one buying your work. On the other hand, self-publishing is something to consider if your stories are simply not finding a home due to the shifting and often shrinking traditional market. Newer, stranger voices often have an easier time through small presses and self-publishing.

If you choose to pursue the traditional publishing route, then yes, those rejections are going to keep coming, and yes, they are going to hurt. Here’s a quick tip on how to get past the pain: Allow yourself 5 – 10 minutes to grieve, then you stop feeling sorry for yourself and you move on. That’s it. In those few minutes, you cry, you scream, you swear, do whatever it is you need to do. Tell yourself how wrong that editor is and feel absolutely miserable they didn’t accept the story (as long as you’re alone and no one is around to hear you complain on the off chance what you say gets back to the editor). When those minutes are up, wipe your eyes, blow your nose, and move on.

You can wallow in your pain if you like, but you know as well as I do that wallowing doesn’t change the result, and it doesn’t get your story a contract from another editor. If publication is what you really want, then pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and submit your story again, and again, and again. In the meantime, you write something new and get that one out the door too.

Creatively yours, Sherry

Sherry Peters“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.

If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at

1 Comment

  • Lane Robins December 9, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    I like to give myself a reward–not for the rejection, but for when I submit that story again. That way, I’m looking forward to some little treat, instead of dwelling. A story gets rejected? Submit it someplace else, buy myself an iTunes track or a donut or a fancy coffee. Another thing I like to do is when I first start subbing a story, I’ll list out ten places it could go to. That way, I’m not trying to think where I should send it while I’m still smarting from the rejection. my .02


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