Rejection and Publishing
How ADHD sucks the joy out of trying.
Don't get me wrong. ADHD can be very useful for Creative Types. But sometimes... it's hard.
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I was undiagnosed and untreated for most of my life. It was only when I went to school to get a doctorate in psych that I went, "Uhhhh do I have ADHD?" And it turned out that YES! I did!
In this post, we'll go through these things:
Rejection is Hard
Rejection is tough for anyone. It's always unpleasant to hear that someone doesn't like the thing you're super excited about or proud of. Sometimes that rejection can even be of you, the person.
Publishing is absolutely full of rejection at every turn. Even before you start querying agents, you have to deal with the rejections of beta readers or critique partners who don't like your work. If you try to apply to an MFA or other writing program, you might get rejected from that. Some writing retreats require an application that can be rejected. It's everywhere!
Then it's time to query an agent, and this is super tough in regards to rejection. Some agents send form rejections, some send personalized rejections, and some send nothing at all. Just silence. Does silence equal rejection? Well... sometimes. It depends. Maybe? Not always. But yes. Also no.
You get an agent and you think your days of being rejected are over! But HA! No! The rejection has only just begun! Now your agent sends your manuscript to editors, and they become the new rejectors of your work. Or maybe an editor loves your work but they have to compete with four other editors for a single book slot, and they don't get that slot. So they have to reject you even though they like your book. What??
After you get an editor, you get your book all nice and pretty and then it gets published. Hooray! Who's gonna reject you now? The book is published! Oh wait. Reviewers are going to reject it? Readers--the people you wrote the book for in the first place--are rejecting it?
And then you want to publish a second book. And the cycle of rejection begins anew.
Does the rejection ever end??
Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria
People with ADHD overwhelmingly (99%) experience a thing called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria (RSD). This means that actual or even just perceived rejection physically hurts. Like, it knocks the wind out of you. It feels like someone just punched you in the heart.
I thought everyone felt this way when they got rejected.
So it was baffling to me that sometimes someone would get told no, and they'd just keep on rolling.
Wait a second! Aren't you going to hide under your bed for a week to recover from this grievous injury??
No. They just kept on going. Interesting.
People with ADHD are very emotionally reactive to rejection. Something that really shouldn't** be a big deal will result in a huge reaction from us. Yes, we're aware that the response might be a little too big (or a lot too big) but we literally can't stop ourselves. If someone punched you in the heart, would you be chill about it? Probably not.
**nothing should or shouldn't be anything, everyone is an individual, and trying to align yourself with shoulds is just a setup for sadness
It took me 21 years to get up the gumption to show my work to other adult humans to read critically. It took 6 more years after that to get published. My fear of that painful rejection kept me very defensive and protective of my words, because they meant so, so much to me. And if someone else didn't like them, my ridiculously fragile and sensitive ego was convinced that equated with that person not liking me.
What To Do
Of course a therapist will say go to therapy, but like... therapy will help. Honestly.
A good therapist can challenge the thoughts that suck you down into that dysphoria. They can set you up with coping skills to use when you feel triggered by that painful rejection. Rejection is a universal experience. Everyone goes through it somehow, so knowing how to manage it is really important.
Up at the top of this post, I have a Motivation PDF which includes the SMART goals system, along with a special ADHD addition that I made. Neurodivergent people often aren't enticed to reach goals by the same things that neurotypical people are, and I figured out what gets me going on something. Maybe it will help you too!
As for rejection, yeah it happens. Yeah it's hard. But it's not the end of the world. Really. Truly. I promise. Even though I still feel sick in my gut and my heart when it happens, I've survived so far. We can make it. ❤️
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