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Reflections and Rejections: A Periodic Column by Jana Begovic -- Rejection: A Step Towards Creativity




Rejection: A Step Towards Creativity

“Writing is its own reward” - Henry Miller


When recently, in a moment of playful creativity and an onrush of inspiration I wrote several Haiku poems and submitted them to a journal, I did not expect they would be accepted. After all, I only spent about an hour writing them, and did not think they were particularly profound, lyrical or true to the genre. Then why did the rejection feel like an unexpected venomous sting? After reading a polite and meaningless email telling me the editor enjoyed reading my poems, but would still not accept any of them, I stopped and pondered my reaction to rejection.

Reflecting on rejection as an inseparable and ubiquitous part of the publishing process,  I remembered how vulnerable and exposed I had felt when a few years ago I began submitting my first novel to publishers and receiving rejections. Once the manuscript was accepted and the novel published, the fear of rejection by publishers was replaced by the trepidation over how the readers might react to it. One night I had a nightmare about a review I was expecting to get from a fellow writer, and I woke up drenched in sweat and determined to ask that author not to post it, because I knew he could not have possibly thought highly of my novel. Fortunately, the opposite was true and the review was fabulous helping me relax temporarily. But the unease and disquiet did not leave me for a long time, as I was still standing outside the confines of my comfort zone fearing judgement. Thus, I can understand how many writers, especially the new ones may feel a deep sense of insecurity over having their work judged and rejected by editors, or criticized by readers. 

Not only do rejections highlight the innate vulnerability we all have in common, but also, they tend to deepen our own self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy as writers. Even if we manage to convince ourselves not to take rejections personally, for after all not everything we write has literary merit, and even if it did, it does not mean it will resonate with every editor, rejections still tend to penetrate through our armour of rationalization and trigger unwanted feelings.

If we scratch below the surface of our reactions and learn how psychologists explain these stinging triggers, we discover that feelings of rejection are linked to the pathways in brain for physical pain. That explains why being rejected by a romantic partner, an employer or an editor may for some feel like being sucker punched. Our writing is an extension of us, it gushes forth from our souls or our unconscious processes, and for that reason rejection of our creative work may feel like rejection of ourselves as persons. If someone believes our writing is sub-standard, we may start to believe there is something deficient about us inherently. 

Because I have received quite a few rejections as an author, and because as Senior Editor of Ariel Chart I often have to reject work submitted to me, I have become acutely aware of the effects my words may have on an aspiring writer. One thing writers should bear in mind, though is that rejections are based on subjective judgements regardless of the experience editors’ might have. A story I have written was rejected by one editor, along with a whole list of negative critical comments, and at the same time was almost accepted by a highly prestigious and well-paying journal, and was finally accepted by another editor, who called it my best work to date, and nominated it for an award. When we understand the subjective element in the judgement behind rejections, we can begin to experience them as moments of transitory and superficial hurt. I remember rejecting a short story because I found the plot twist implausible. A husband discovers a Viagra pill on the floor of the bathroom and immediately suspects his wife is having an affair. Even though I readily suspend disbelief when reading tales of fairies and dragons, as a romance writer I have difficulty imagining a woman having an affair with someone who needs Viagra.  Another editor may not have this bias about illicit or romantic relationships, in general. 

Subjectivity aside, when editors, however offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvements, they give us a chance to grow and perfect our craft. As an editor, my wish is to encourage, and as a writer, I continue reminding myself that staying creative is something I owe to myself. I believe that once we have drunk from the cup of creativity and reaped its spiritual rewards, there should be no going back. If genuine, the creative urge must be satisfied for its own sake. The impulse to write is a lantern in our souls; it is one of the most profound and vital life impulses, and we must follow that inner light and trust it. If we abandon it because of our fear of rejections, we may allow a part of our souls to wither. 

After all, the reward for writing lies in the writing itself.


Jana Begovic



As far back as she can remember, Jana has been fascinated by storytelling. Her love of reading and writing propelled her toward studies of languages and literature resulting in B.A. degrees in English and German Languages and Literature, an M.A. Degree in Literary Criticism, as well as a B.Ed. Degree in English and Dramatic Arts.

Among her publications are an academic article published by Cambridge Scholars, UK, the novel Poisonous Whispers, published by Roane Publishing, N.Y., poetry, short fiction, articles, art reviews, and blog posts featured in literary journals, such as Ariel Chart, Chantwood, the Pangolin Review, Abstract, Canada Fashion Magazine and Authors Publish (Facebook page). Her short story, Purveyors of Magic will appear in the springtime edition of Black Shamrock. Currently, she is working on a collection of children's stories and acting as a senior editor for Ariel Chart and contributing editor/writer for the Canada Fashion Magazine. She has been nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net and the PushCart awards for a piece of non-fiction and a short story published in Ariel Chart.

She lives in Ottawa, Ontario and works for the Government of Canada as an education specialist in the field of military language training.

She can be contacted via her Author Page at https://www.facebook.com/J.Damselfly/






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4 Comments

  1. Thank you for this! It resonates with me on such a profound level- thank you a hundred times over for writing it.

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  2. This reveals a beautiful mind of an editor! And my brief email exchange with Jana attests to her deep caring for me as an emerging writer; it is to me an encouragement and huge inspiration. Thank you so much Jana!

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    Replies
    1. Ariel Staff is proud of her insight and kindness. The world needs more.

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  3. Wise words for writers and artists in need of a strong shoulder.

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