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Handling Rejection As Failure: Aspiring Writers Getting The Rejection Slip

Henrik Fürst

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Included in the definition of being an aspiring person is the risk of failure. Aspiring fiction writers are no exception. This article shows that the role of aspiring fiction writer involves managing three issues: the hope of being published, rejection by a publisher, and the perception of the rejection as a failure. Drawing on 47 interviews with fiction writers who have attempted to become first-time writers, the analysis shows that aspiring writers’ responses to rejection are related to accepting and dismissing responsibility for having failed and admitting or dismissing the rejection as a perceived failure. Based on these findings, the article presents procedures associated with four main approaches to dealing with failure: conceding, excusing, justifying, and refusing. This conceptual framework for understanding failure contributes to a theoretical understanding of evaluation and valuation processes and their consequences and to empirical studies of rejection as career failure; it also systematizes and extends Goffmans work on cooling out strategies.