I saw the name in my email inbox and immediately my heart sank. I wanted to read it, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to avoid it, but I couldn’t. There was great potential there for happiness, and an even higher probability for disappointment.

It was an email from an acquisitions editor I had been speaking with regarding her publishing house printing a book about our trip. I had been waiting for a few weeks. I knew this was the yes or the no. With great trepidation I opened the email.

It was a “no.” It was a wonderful, kind, encouraging “no” from one of the most successful, respected editors in the industry. But it was a “no” nonetheless.

* * * * *

I’ve started recognizing the pattern that I go through in dealing with rejection. Even really wonderful rejections (for more on wonderful rejections, check out my E-book Building a Life Out of Words, in which published author Stacy Barton talks about the importance of wonderful rejections).

But I’m sort of early in the rejection-receiving phase of life. I don’t deal with them as well as she does. Here are the stages I go through:

Stage One: I Am a Terrible Writer

This stage is characterized by a clamor of internal voices disparaging my writing, my choice to write, my previous writing, and any future writing I might ever do. Depending on my mood, the availability of my wife to talk me down from the ledge, and the accessibility of ice cream, this stage can last from a few minutes to a few days.

Stage Two: The Other Person Has No Idea What They’re Doing and Have Obviously No Business in the Publishing World

This one feels good for a few minutes because it is self-righteous and self-justifying. Me against the big bad world. But it’s never been true in any of the rejections I’ve received, and it’s NEVER a good place from which to write reply emails.

Stage Three: Life Sucks

Depending on my then-current level of self-pity, this one can hang around for a few hours. Until I think of my many close friends who are terminally ill or battling cancer or have experienced terrible abuses in their lives. Then I remember that I have lots to be thankful for. Gratefulness is a cure for many ills, rejection included.

Stage Four: Enlightenment

At some point I realize that no instance of rejection, especially from someone taking a quick look at my writing or considering a project proposal, is meant to be a sweeping indictment of me or my writing ability. Almost every writing rejection you or I will ever encounter is a very isolated assessment of one thing made up of an endless number of factors, all converging in an instant where someone must say “yes” or “no.” It is the judgment of an instant, upon which so many variables are weighing.

I’ve started to realize that I have (incorrectly) given the same weight to rejection as I have to acceptance, even though their value is not inversely proportional. Confused yet? Me, too.

Stage Five: Work Harder

Finally I arrive at the final stage of rejection, and there is only one thing to do. Work harder. Write more. Analyze more closely what I am doing. And, ironically, open myself up to the possibility of even more rejection.

How about you? How do you deal with rejection? Which phase do you occasionally get stuck in?