To get better is to read someone better than you
There will be winners in this year’s Chinese Writing Contest. And for anyone whose writing is included in the Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories, Book 3, he or she is a winner. But not all participants’ submissions will be included in the book. That means, someone’s work will be rejected.
As the contest is closed, it is fitting to talk a little bit about handling rejection.
The ability to handle rejections, even a trivial one like being rejected in a tiny Chinese Writing Contest, is a big thing.
I took a few painting classes a long time ago. I don’t remember much about these lessons anymore. But I do remember the teacher started lessons by showing us some paintings or sketches done by masters, whose work we must emulate. This is art lesson 101.
It is the same thing with writing. The way to get better at writing is to read someone better than you. Getting rejected in a contest like this means there are people who are better than you. Although it is hard to stomach sometimes, being rejected is truly an opportunity to learn and to improve your writing skills.
This is the most important tip for handling rejections, that you can use rejections as a tool for self-improvement.
Perhaps your story doesn’t have a clear structure or your poem lacks a spirit. If you take writing seriously, rejections will force you to think hard on areas that you can improve.
I have heard countless stories about how accomplished authors talked about being rejected and how they took these opportunities to improve their works. One said that she rewrote her first book over 100 times. Another one said that rejection forced him to develop his unique style.
Secondly, please bear in mind that, as long as you keep writing and until you get wonderfully good at it, rejections are inevitable. And whenever it happens, you will feel defeated or dispirited. You’re not alone. ALL writers will perhaps never, ever, become better at handling rejections.
This is the second important tip, that it is essential for you to know that these struggles you go through are the same as all other writers. Only those writers who are able to keep a sense of humour about being rejected have an advantage. They make themselves, and others, laugh.
I read a humorous take on what to do after being rejected. Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids, shared a tip for how to turn negative feelings into positive ones, “Take another author out for a coffee. You will feel good for being nice, they will feel good because they have saved $2.38”. (I laughed really hard at this one!)
Finally, you can not put a price on creative freedom, especially at the age of ChatGPT when generative AI is poised to replace human writers. When you look at the list of 320 Chinese characters and see meanings that are not there, it’s a win already.
In the end, remember writing is a satisfying activity. It’s pouring part of your soul into physical reality. It’s one of the rare things that we can do and, in doing so, we truly become a unique individual.
So. Never. Give. Up.