Broken Branches and Knots: Thriving with Writer Rejection

No matter how long you’ve written and polished your writing, you’ll eventually need to show it off to other people. Professional publishers and agents reject hundreds more manuscripts than they accept. The sting of this failure can be hard to cope with. The best solution is to handle it the same way trees do: Broken branches are transformed into knots, which make the tree stronger. Writer rejection can seem like a death knell, but treated properly, it can allow us to thrive.

Knots in the Wood

Sometimes the branches of a tree break. And sometimes that story or novel we poured so much time into gets rejected. This can hurt. We can learn from how a tree copes with such injuries.

Trees nurture their wounds by growing around the broken branch. Eventually this creates a knot that in turn strengthens the tree. So too, writers need time to grieve and heal from rejection. 

  • Remind yourself why you became a writer in the first place. You can write a letter to yourself or simply list all the reasons why you love writing. 
  • Stop writing. At least in the short term. Just like trees need time to build the hard wood surrounding a broken branch, you’ll need time to process. Take some time for yourself so you can come back stronger. 
  • Understand that not every book is a fit for every reader. You simply need to find the right person who will love it way you do. 

Growing Taller

When a tree grows a branch, it stays at the level where it first started growing. Consider the writing you did three years ago. Or ten. You’ve changed as a writer. Grown in different ways. You might not need or even want the stories you created so long ago. 

In order for the tree to have new branches higher and higher, it might need to put all its energy into forward growth, not lingering on branches too low to catch sunlight. So too, as a writer we need to grow and stretch our talents. A rejection can be motivation to grow in new directions. 

Writer James Lee Burke had this to say: “Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.” 

  • What can you learn from the rejection and how can you channel it back into your work? 
  • Are you marketing yourself the wrong way? Publishers like to put writers into boxes and maybe you’re targeting the wrong box.
  • Fall into a solid routine. Hitting those daily goals can be a wonderful salve to the wounded ego. 

The Seed of Success

Rejection can feel like the end of the line. As if we can’t possibly go forward. Yet Ray Bradbury dealt with over 800 rejections. He said: “You have to know how to accept rejection and reject acceptance.” No only do we need to move past rejection, we also cannot value ourselves simply on whether someone did or did not accept our work. Other people weren’t the reason our desire to write germinated so many years ago. Don’t hand control of your dreams over to someone else. They’re yours to grow and nurture.

Tim Kane

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