Copywriting Curiosities
  The writing tips your English teacher forgot to give you... September 30, 2004  

For the Bookshelf

Recommendations from E.T. Robbins

When you have the rejection blues, it's important to wallow in the right type of reading. The key is frivolity. Pick something that's going to comfort you, not make you feel worse. Maybe you need a trashy romance. Maybe you prefer perusing something from your childhood. Maybe you need the latest best seller -- in hardcover. Maybe you need an issue of Cosmo and a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Below are two of my favorites indulgences when I'm suffering from rejection blues.

"The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint Exupery. This is my bedside companion. It's a children's book filled with endless wisdom for us adults. It's gotten me through good times and bad -- including more than one broken heart.

"The Lovely Bones" by Alice Sebold. This is a new book (only a few years old). But whenever I need to remind myself why I want to write, I simply read the first chapter of this book (and usually get sucked into reading the whole thing). One reviewer said that Sebold's opening paragraph was one of the best ever written. I have to agree. Writing like hers makes me want to get back in front of my computer ASAP.

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Maybe you didn't get that grant you spent endless hours researching and writing for your nonprofit. Maybe your 15-page proposal didn't land you your dream client. Maybe you got a lousy grade on a paper that you poured your heart and soul into. Maybe you received three "form" rejection letters within a 24-hour period (yes, that's happened to me). No matter what the scenario is, one thing is clear: rejection is never easy.

So what's a person to do? As we all know, rejection is a part of life. Unfortunately, it can be a BIG part of a writer's life. But you CAN get through it -- and even learn from it. Follow my five survival tips and rest easier the next time someone says, "Thanks, but no thanks."

  • Feel the Rejection
  •    It's okay to feel the pain. Actually, it's important that you allow yourself to feel and to grieve. But don't dwell. Instead, take a break. Eat ice cream. Go to a movie. Buy a new outfit. Clean the toilet. Do anything that doesn't involve the written word. Did I mention eating ice cream?

  • Resubmit and Try Again
  •    If you're a freelancer, resubmit your query to another publication. If you're a student, read your instructor's comments -- ask questions about what you don't understand and make notes about the mistakes to avoid in the future. If you're a grant writer, marketing writer, or business writer, see if you can talk with the decision maker who rejected your piece. Be courteous, be respectful and simply ask what didn't work.

  • Take a Class or Workshop
  •    It never hurts to polish your skills. And perhaps a workshop, seminar, or course in your respective writing field will help you figure out that extra special something to make your work sparkle. If you're a grant writer, consider taking an audio conference (try If you're a freelancer, try taking a writing "boot camp" ( If you're a business writer, look into local colleges and chambers of commerce.

  • Get a Second Opinion
  •    Maybe it's not you or your writing -- maybe your piece just landed in the wrong hands. Teachers, editors, and clients have bad days, too. Ask someone you trust (and someone who understands a thing or two about writing) to read your work. See what he or she has to say.

  • Write Something Else
  •    The best way to move on is by moving on. Start a new query letter. Tackle your next writing assignment. Work on a different grant. Pitch another client. And don't ever give up.

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