Reject Rejection! How Cognitive Therapy Techniques Will Help You Stay Motivated and Succeed


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Getting rejected is a normal part of every writer's life, and it can make it difficult to stay motivated. Fortunately, cognitive therapy offers a lot of useful tools for making sure we don't let rejection affect us negatively. Here are three distortions that are very common among writers when their work is rejected or they have other setbacks:

Overgeneralization: the tendency to think that one event represents a pattern. Example: Your manuscript comes back, rejected, and you think, “This book is never going to sell!” Or you read an article about how a publisher ripped off a writer, and you assume, “All these publishers are just out to cheat writers. ”

Disqualifying the positive: the tendency to ignore or discount positive developments. Example: You get a rejection but it has an encouraging comment on it, and you think, “Who care about positive comments, it still didn't sell. ” Or you sell an article, and you think, “Yeah, but it isn’t for a major publication, so it doesn’t really count. ”

Mind reading: the tendency to assume you know what someone else is thinking or their motivation. Example: An editor says your article isn’t right for their magazine, and you think, “He obviously thinks my writing isn’t good enough for this magazine. ” (The reality may be that it’s well-written but not the right style or topic for them. ) Or you submit a query letter and don’t get an answer, and assume, “They must have hated that idea” (in fact, they may have lost your letter).

ACTION: The first step is to notice when you are thinking in these ways. One good method for clarifying your thinking is to write down what you're thinking when you feel bad in some way. Then challenge the statements you've written down. If you’re thinking something “always” happens—does it, really? If you’re discounting something, ask what is genuinely positive about it. If you’re mind-reading, come up with at least three other things the other person might be thinking.

Your writing coach Jurgen Wolff has written more than 100 episodes of television, six non-fiction books, short stories, articles, and plays. He is also an international creativity and writing teacher coach. More tips and techniques are available at his website: , where you can also sign up for his free monthly Brainstorm e-bulletin. Also see his blog at


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