Rejection can create real mental suffering, causing worry about being good enough, uncertainty, regret, guilt and even grief. When something doesn’t go to plan, one reaction creatives often have is to go over it again and again in our minds. The original impulse is a healthy one; thinking about the feedback will lead to insight. But sometimes we get stuck in negative loops, going over it repeatedly and feeling worse and worse the longer we do and the more we get.
This form of not being able to get over rejection if called rumination, meaning an unproductive fixation on negative thoughts and feelings. The word comes from the verb ruminate, which means to ‘chew the cud’. If rumination is an issue for you, you can lessen its effects by using my six step plan when you feel stuck in unproductive thinking. As with most strategies, it takes patience and perseverance, but can make you feel better over time.
Step 1. Set a Limit
If you recognise that you have a tendency to think about a single topic for extended periods of time, learn to ask yourself, “Is this productive and purposeful?” If the answer is no, set a time limit for further thinking about that topic of one more day. When you wake up in the morning, you will actively think about something else. If you are still stuck, go to step 2.
Step 2. Distraction
You call pull yourself out of rumination by turning your attention elsewhere. Distraction involves immersing yourself in an absorbing activity so your mind is pulled away from an unproductive track and into a more purposeful direction. Spending time, doing, watching or listening to something that makes you feel good, it’s that simple.
This strategy comes with a caution. The activity should be a healthy pleasure. Not all distractions are good. Examples of unhealthy distractions include alcohol, overeating, negative media or violence. Also, don’t wallow listening to sad 80s rock songs. it might give your legwarmers another wear, but it doesn’t work. I tried it.
Step 3. Positive Self Talk
Replace negative thoughts with realistic ones. Your self talk may turn negative is destructive but you can interrupt the cycle with self reassurance, relaxation and listening to the quiet inner voice that made you want to start the journey to publication in the first place. Cognitive therapy is a well researched and effective approach for treating overly negative thinking.
Step 4. Connect with Others
Connecting with someone you trust, in person or via social media, can be helpful because of the suggestions you receive, the reassurance you get or just from feeling connected to another person. One person on the Share Your Story Facebook group messaged me about handling rejection. “It’s much harder to be alone when I’ve received another rejection email, so I find a friendly person to talk to gives me hope. Often, it doesn’t matter what we talk about, just feeling connected to like minded people and something bigger and beyond myself helps lift my spirits.”
Step 5. Get Physical
Taking action in some form lead you to immerse yourself in an activity that quiets the voice of futility by providing an opportunity for accomplishment. Depending on your functional level and responsibilities, you might do some housework, begin preparing a meal, do some exercise or run an errand. See how much more likely you are to have another go at submitting once you have cleaned the bathroom and toilet.
Try a new activity, like beadwork, scrapbooking or yoga. It could be something intellectually challenging as well as physical with the goal being to find something both absorbing and rewarding.
Step 6. Write
Considerable research indicates that writing provides positive health benefits. Giving verbal form to emotionally powerful experiences seems to bring understanding.
In the words of researcher James Pennebaker, with many of his studies on writing involve subjects keeping a journal and writing for 20 minutes a day, “Rather than explaining that it felt good to get negative emotions off their chests, the respondents noted how they understood themselves better.”
You never know if you might unearth your next book idea!
How can we help?
Share your Story offers many ways for our community to help overcome rejection.
Join us at one of our Coffee and Critique meetings to discuss the feedback and see if there is a new way forward.
Attend our Yoga + Words workshop for some physical and mental exercise.
Post in our Facebook group for community support.
If you find yourself stuck on a rejection, learn to take positive steps to change your thinking and lift your spirits. You can decide how you react. More importantly, don’t give up.