Wednesday, May 12, 2010

25 WOW Wednesday: Cole Gibsen on Surviving Rejection

Do you sometimes feel like you aren't getting anywhere? Ever wonder if you should give up trying to get published? Here's the second installment of our Wow Wednesday series with some words of advice about why it's important to keep the faith. We're going to run these every week featuring the secrets behind the successes (big and small) of other writers on the journey. Have you had a success of  your own? Share it with us!

This week's feature is from Cole Gibsen, and here's the Publisher's Marketplace blurb run just last week:

Cole Gibsen's debut KATANA, about what happens when the captain of the pom squad learns she is a reincarnated samurai, meets a boy claiming to be her soul mate from another life, and must chose between continuing as the girl she's always been and embracing the warrior inside her, to Brian Farrey at Flux, in a two-book deal, by Chris Richman at Upstart Crow Literary (NA).

When a Rejection Feels Like a Punch in the Face

As someone who used to take martial arts, I can tell you that getting punched in the face hurts like a mother. And, unfortunately for me, I was punched/kicked in the face quite a bit because I’m no Bruce Lee.

The same thing goes with rejections. They suck ducks. And let me tell you, I received my fair share of them.

So how did I do it, you ask? How did I withstand years (yes, I said years) of literally hundreds of rejections, each feeling like a sucker punch to the gut?

I applied the lessons I learned during my training at the dojang.

You see, martial arts teaches you how to block – but if you engage in a fight getting hurt is inevitable. That’s why you must also learn how to take a hit.

Here are some pointers:

  1. Relax mentally. Your mindset is very important. If you fear that the pain will be more agonizing than what it actually will be, it'll hurt even worse. If you know you might get punched, accept that you will get punched so that you can prepare yourself mentally for it.

    The same thing goes with querying. Relax! It’s not as bad as you think it’s going to be. There will be rejections. Accept that. Prepare for it. But don’t focus on it.
  2. Keep your vision. When confronted with a threat, it's very easy to make that the center of your universe. Avoid this natural tendency and try to maintain peripheral vision and awareness of your surroundings, especially other assailants. There may be something that can help you in the ensuing fight, your assailant may have a weapon, or there maybe someone else attempting to jump you from behind.

    When querying, don’t make the rejections the center of your universe. Keep honing your craft and working on other projects.
  3. Practice. In order to learn relax, and not panic, you really need to experience the sensation of having punches thrown at you. You will obviously want to do this in a controlled environment that safely simulates a real world scenario as best as possible.

    Keep practicing! The only real way to prepare yourself and your work for querying is to join a critique group. Sure, hearing about your shortcomings can feel like a jab in the gut, but discovering your weaknesses and improving upon them will only make you a better writer.
  4. Try to "roll with the punch". If you can't avoid getting hit, move your body away from the hit. This decreases both the momentum and the time of the impact, effectively reducing the impulse and forcing the assailant to inadvertently "pull his punches."
  5. You might feel angry receiving a form rejection for the manuscript you’ve poured your heart and soul into. But shake it off! Writing the agent/editor back to proclaim their mental shortcomings is the worst thing you can do. Roll with the punch and move on.
  6. Keep your balance. Getting knocked down in a fight is generally a bad thing, as it decreases your ability to escape, makes you vulnerable to kicking or getting crushed, in addition to the danger of injuring yourself in the process of falling.
Whatever you do, keep plugging away. If you let the rejections knock you down, chances are you won’t get up again. Getting published is an epic battle and victory has never gone to the weak.

A warning; if you don’t want to be hit, don’t get into a fight. Likewise, if you don’t want a rejection, don’t query. But if you’re determined, and don’t mind taking a couple of hooks and jabs along the way, get in there and fight for what you want. If you do, victory will be yours!

This post features information from the wikihow article “How to Take a Punch”, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. © 2010


  1. Awesome post. Both of my sons have black belts so I totally got it. Great job. And I so needed to hear this. My gut is hurting, bro, but I'm rollin'. *Smiles*

  2. I absolutely love the Wow Wednesday series! Please keep 'em coming.

    Cole Gibsen's advice on rejection is exactly what I needed to read this morning.

    Uncertainty is a bummer, but if we keep the creative juices flowing, something awesome is sure to come from it!

    I'm already looking forward to next week's post. Have a great Humpday! Tory

  3. Thanks for the great, inspiring post! I'm about to jump in the ring for another bout, and I need to hear this today!


  4. Thanks for the pep talk <3 Def need it.

  5. GREAT and helpful tips! I'll have to remember this the next time I get punched in the gut. ;)

  6. Great advice. I'm getting ready to query and need all the advice I can get to not take it too personally.

  7. Cole is a total inspiration! Great article.

  8. Fantastic post! Relax, practice, roll, shake it off, keep a sense of balance--all tips to lift us up when we're down in this business. Thanks so much for the boost :-)

    Glad to have found you. Great stuff.

  9. I love this - every word of it! And the book sounds fun, fun, fun! :-)

  10. Great advice, great post... very helpful.
    Rejection still sucks, but it's a business, not personal. That's the part that's hard to remember sometimes...

  11. Awesome advice! This is a "print and post" post.

  12. I love hearing what writers do to move past the bad. Achieving this ability is critical to continuing down the writing path.

    Much luck with your book--it sounds like a great premise!

  13. Wow. *light bulb*
    "If you don't wanna be hit, don't get in a fight."

  14. I love, love, love this post. Very inspirational - thank you. This applies to varying facets in life, and the advice is on point.
    Something we all need to be reminded of every now and then: Don't give up.

  15. Awesome post! Last Wednesday I blogged on what gymnastics teaches me about writing. It's amazing how much sports relate to a lot of what we go through in the writing life.

    Thanks for sharing!

  16. lol. Awesome and so true. I might have to reread this article once a day as I begin the query quest.

  17. Cole, thanks for posting this piece of inspiration for everyone to share. The comparison of martial arts and querying is so appropriate. I love that you refer to it as "an epic battle" and that "victory has never gone to to the weak." This will motivate me to keep pushing on, despite rejections. Congratulations on your book deal. Even more, congratulations on taking the hits and getting right back up! It paid off :)


  18. Wow, great advice. I'm going to remember this and read it during the low times. :)

  19. Great analogy. You rock Cole!

    Thanks for posting AICP.

  20. Super analogy! I love the first one - relax is the very best advice. As a once-upon-a-time-very-average gymnast, I had to learn to relax and roll with the punches too. You're right - it's very similar. The first thing you need to learn to do is fall :)

  21. I'm still too afraid to send out my query letter. So, to give myself courage, I am going to print out Cole Gibsen's last paragraph and tape it to my computer:

    "If you don’t want to be hit, don’t get into a fight. Likewise, if you don’t want a rejection, don’t query. But if you’re determined, and don’t mind taking a couple of hooks and jabs along the way, get in there and fight for what you want. If you do, victory will be yours!"

  22. I've had days where I couldn't write on the day a rejection came in. Dang, where was your blog when I needed it? Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.


    Both of my boys are involved in martial arts...

    A wonderful post with really meaty advice. I made an in depth comment a while ago but it flew off into cyber that's all I'll say for now..


  24. Cole is a great inspiration for all of us. Great interview. :)


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