Send Them A Dead Fish: How (Not!) To Handle Rejection

Ruptured and Torn On the rarest of occasions — when two comets collide, when an albino swan gives birth to an albino squirrel, when the time and date is 12:12: 12 on 12/12/2012 — I get a rejection letter. I know, right! It’s a total fluke. Obviously not even meant for me. It’s an easy mix-up; I meet guys with the last name “Wendig” all the time. They’re probably getting all my sweet-ass publication notices. Remind me to interface with those dudes at some point and collect my accolades.

So, I maybe kinda sorta got one such rejection lately. Or maybe it was three. Shut up.

You get this thing. Maybe it’s a nice rejection. Maybe it’s polite and has some advice. Could be a form letter. Or it’s possible that it’s rude and unprofessional.

At the moment of rejection, you have to make a choice. You have to figure out how, as a writer, as a fragile and delicate writer, you’re going to handle this obvious slight against your character. You need to man up. You need to decide if you’re Too Cool For School, or Too Shitty For New York City. No, I don’t know what that means. It doesn’t have to mean anything. I’m a writer. This is my art.

You get yourself a rejection?

Here’s a few ways (not!) to handle it.

Option One: Nuclear Apeshit

Some people will tell you that you gotta handle rejection in a positive way. Turn that frown upside down, one might suggest. Be a fountain, not a drain. You’re feeling low, so the best thing to do is to find positive reinforcement, blah blah blah. Whatever. Go hug a kitten, kitten-hugger. We don’t need your touchy-molesty voodoo up in here.

No, eff that ess right in its gee dee cee ess emm eff shit box. You know what will make you feel better? Just go nuts. See that door? Kick a hole through it. Got a computer? Did you use it to type your manuscript? Urinate on it. Pour gas on it. Set it on fire. Throw it at a loved one, family member, or convenience store clerk. Violence is purifying! And it doesn’t just have to be run-of-the-mill old-fashioned violence, either. You’re a writer. You’re fucking creative. Make effigies of Those Who Rejected You out of mud and feces, and then eat them on camera. Stick foreign objects in your ass, or other asses that are not your own. Write a manifesto, and then affix that manifesto to someone’s chest using a broadhead arrow. Blow up the moon!

Option Two: Reclaim Your Superiority

Newsflash: uh-oh, now you basically suck. You got a rejection letter, and like something out of the Celestine Prophecy, all your energy has been stolen away by the thieving tentacles of the rejecting malefactor. Your synchronicity is now all beglamoured by crapness. You’re weak. The rejection letter made you weak. Hey, relax. Nothing you could’ve done to stop that. It’s like a grenade in the mail. It’s gonna go off. It’s gonna blow your hands apart so they look like Raggedy Ann’s hair. Red. Stringy. Nappy. Ew.

What that means is, you have to get your power back.

You have to engage in some Superior Maneuvers.

Here are a few examples of Superior Maneuvers:

  • Kick a child
  • Steal someone’s puppy
  • Slap a child
  • Go shopping in chainmail armor, and run the self-checkout robot through with a broadsword
  • Force two children to headbutt each other
  • Write a 250,000 word epic about you slaughtering all the people who made fun of you in high school, college, or at your place of work
  • Steal a child’s bike, and then eat the bike in front of them
  • Steal a child’s bike, and then eat the bike in front of them, and then crap out the bike, and then make a new crap-smelling bike, and then ride that bike over the child as he watches

Feel free to make your own!

Redlines Option Three: Reject Their Asses Right Back!

Some will tell you that a rejection letter isn’t personal. That it’s subjective.


Oh, it’s personal, all right. They don’t like you. Don’t you get it? It’s not your manuscript they’re rejecting. It’s you. It’s your hair, your clothes, your odor.

The only way to make it right is to flip it and switch it. It’s like some rad-ass Kung Fu move where you hold out your hands and create these crazy air currents and some dude jumps out of a hedge and he’s got an uzi and the uzi is all like brat-a-tat-tat and you capture the bullets in your Magical Sphere of Hurricane Hand Movements and then, whip whip whip the bullets fly away from you and hit that uzi dude and he explodes in a rain of gore and denim. Except, this time, instead of redirecting uzi bullets, you’re writing your own rejection letter back.

Boomerang-style, bitches! What-what!

Remember, you gotta make it count. Make it sting. This is you trying to hurt them like they hurt you. The person who just rejected you? They schooled your ass. So it’s your job to school them in return. With words of pain and humiliation.

An example letter might be:

Dear Fuckface:

I received your letter where you negatively reviewed my manuscript, The Epoch of Codpiece Johnson, and you claimed that my 300,000 word Magnum Opus was “not for your agency,” which is clever lingo for “I took a shit all over your brilliance because I am secretly jealous of it.” You can take your rejection of my sublime novelization and cram it in your pee-hole, that is, provided you and your alien masters even have pee-holes.

I would in turn like to reject you personally. Your hair looks like a cock-eyed hornet’s nest. You smell like the musk glands of a jungle cat: humid and unpleasant. I had the displeasure of reading your third-grade essay, “I Went To Alaska On My Summer Vacation,” and I frankly thought it was a fucking massacre of the human language. You might as well have communicated in grunts and clicks. What, do tell, is a “Kodiak Bear?” Is that a bear-camera hybrid? “Oh noes, I just got attacked by a Polaroid Donkey!” You just made that up. No such thing exists. You are stupid. I reject you!


C. Diddly Wendig

P.S. I look forward to us working together on future projects.

For bonus points, you might also consider sending a dead animal along for the ride. You might truly win the day by coordinating the animal with the theme or some element related to your manuscript. For instance, because my novel is about leathered hero Codpiece Johnson, I decided to send along a dead cod. For giggles, I also filled it with stinging insects.

Option Four: Punish Yourself

It is entirely possible that you decide that the rejection was deserved. They said, “You suck, your work sucks, everything about you sucks,” and you’re inclined to believe them.

No problem. Fine. That’s a not unreasonable stance to take when you’re trying to figure out how (not!) to handle rejection.

So, punish yourself.

It works. You’ll feel so much better.

Stapler plus scrotum? Nail gun versus nipple? Condom filled with angry termites left on the tongue and swallowed? All good choices. You’re clearly very lame, and need to hurt yourself due to your lameness. Your words are so bad, so… mundane, that your only recourse is to make misery for yourself. Leave your wife. Crash your car into a pond. Punch a cop. So many great options!

Option Five: Quit!

Here’s something. Let’s say you have a five-year-old. He’s running around, he’s all cute and fun and jam-handed. Throw a baseball at his head. Does he catch it? Does he whip out a bat and knock it for a line drive over your shoulder? No? Then that kid is never, ever, never gonna be a professional baseball player. He failed the test.

And you failed the test, too. Man, you got a rejection letter? Who gets those? Loo-hoo-hoo-loo-sers, that’s who. One rejection from one person is a very clear indicator that you are a valueless piece of shit. Not a mote of talent flitting around your empty head.

So, quit.

Rejection letters are the ultimate indictment against your lack of skill. If you’re not willing to kill yourself, then at least take a janitorial position somewhere. Do the world a service, though, and stop polluting people’s inboxes with your trash. You might as well just pee in their mouths. You’re that bad.

Okay, Seriously

First, irony of ironies, as I was writing this, a rejection letter hit my inbox from another agent (tally: four rejections!). Ping! Woo!

Second, in case you’re not clear, all of the above is satire. I’m poking fun. Do not do any of the above things. Do not embrace violence. Do not send nasty letters to agents and publishing companies. Remain calm.

For reals, I can tell you this: each rejection letter is a badge of honor. It’s a battle scar, baby. Proof that you’re out there in the trenches, the jungles, the muddy fields and foggy bogs, and you’re kicking ass and taking names. Rejection is par for the course. Everybody gets rejected. Nobody is universally embraced. I keep my letters. If I had some wall space, I’d frame those sonsabitches. Be proud of them. Be proud that you took a step out there and danced on the ledge. It’s a place many won’t go. And there you are, giving us all the finger from the edge.

Learn from the rejections, too. If it’s a form letter — well, not much to learn. But if someone gives you a note, consider it. Swish it around your mouth. Get a few other outside opinions. Learn from it. A rejection seems negative. It’s not. It’s affirmation that you’re on the right path, and you just have to keep walking it, and trying again, and again, and again. Put the bucket on your head and knock down the wall. Embrace rejection. Wear the scars. Learn from the process.

And that’s all I have to say.


C. Diddly Wendig.

P.S. I look forward to us working together on future projects.