Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Coping with Rejection
From Trepidation to a First Draft
Professional Roles and Publishable Writing
No author relishes receiving a letter that begins “We regret to inform you…” The first step in dealing with rejection is to use it to analyze your writing rather than to criticize yourself. A rejection is not: a personal attack, definitive evidence of editor bias, or verification that you were, indeed, an imposter all along. Authors can be hypersensitive, particularly at first. An established author remembered getting:
very, very negative and somewhat hostile responses from the reviewers. That’s the way I think I viewed it at the time, I actually should go back and probably see if that was really was the case or if I was just incredibly sensitive about it… and what happened was I never resubmitted it. It was a ’revise and resubmit,’ but I felt overwhelmed and I felt like I couldn’t do anything about it. But I think one of the things that I have learned from that is that you know what, don’t let that happen… put things away for a little bit and come back to them. And then try…to go point by point through the reviewers’ responses and try to take a chance at those things versus saying you can’t do this. (Jalongo, 2013b, p. 76)
The first piece of advice concerning rejection is to try to avoid it. Perhaps the simplest preventative method is to resist the impulse to send it in too soon. What often happens is that scholars feel pressured to get something published and submit a manuscript well before it is a polished, finished project. Authors—particularly those with less experience—need the input of a known audience before they subject a manuscript to an unknown audience. Finding the right people to do this is essential. A manuscript is not improved when someone offers uncritical acceptance of the work. You will need a person who is knowledgeable, candid, respectful, and provides constructive criticism. As professor emeritus of SUNY Buffalo, Jim Hoot, is fond of saying, “Think of criticism as a kindness.” People who can provide constructive criticism are a treasure and, after you find a few you can rely on and learn from, you can reciprocate by helping others.
If it is too late and your work has been rejected already, what should you do? Although it is easier said than done, learn to treat manuscript rejections as a way to begin the process of revision. Each time you learn something about yourself as a writer and how to navigate the world of academic writing. Some strategies that can help you to cope with rejection follow.
Activity 3.4: Key Transitions for Writers
In his study of professors’ writing habits, Boice (1995) identified seven habits associated with scholarly productivity. Rate yourself by responding to each question below. Do you: