Why does rejection hurt? Like, really hurt?

We all know that rejection is part of writing life.

We’ve been told that even the most well-renowned authors suffered setbacks on their journey to publication, but whilst this knowledge might register in the head, it often doesn’t lessen the pain in the heart.

Why not? There’s a good reason.

When we experience writing rejection, we’re not just dealing with a rejection of our story – something we have lovingly crafted and made ourselves vulnerable to bring into being.

That would be bad enough.

We’re also grappling with the way our brains are wired.

In evolutionary terms, human beings have a fundamental need to belong to a group. In a hunter-gatherer society, being ostracized effectively meant death, so we developed an ‘early warning system’ to warn us when this was about to happen: rejection.

And that’s not all. To ensure that we took this threat seriously, rejection began to piggy-back on physical pain pathways in the brain.

fMRI studies show that rejection activates the same parts of the brain as when we experience physical pain.

And those who experienced rejection as the most painful (our ancestors) gained an evolutionary advantage and remained to pass on their genes.

Sorry, but it gets worse.

Our natural response to rejection is to damage our own self-esteem further. For writers, who may be working in isolation, and may not be surrounded with people who understand this kind of pain, this can lead to giving up or even to self-destructive behaviours.

So, how does this knowledge help with the pain of rejection?

We know that reasoning will only take us so far.

  1. Firstly, we need to recognise and acknowledge our emotional pain – and that it feels overwhelming because it is a primal one. When a baby cries, we know it is an evolutionary response – a need for care, comfort and protection, and not an expression of dissatisfaction with their caregiver. This understanding helps us to be patient and caring, even when we feel flooded with negative emotions.
  2. Secondly, we can identify punitive and self-critical behaviours and try to address these. It might not be easy, but awareness is key. We can choose to boost our self-worth by focusing on new projects – or different outlets for creativity altogether.
  3. Lastly, we can connect with others. Rejection destabilises our feeling of belonging and restoring this need is crucial. 

We’re not really adrift. There are hordes of writers out there in the same boat, experiencing rejection every day.

Reach out to your network and others through social media (private groups) and start talking with others who are going through it too.

If you’re dealing with writing rejection at the moment, I hope this understanding helps in some small way.

For more research and tips around the writing process, plus the occasional book review, pop your email address in the sidebar and let’s stay in touch.

You can find more about rejection and physical pain at:


Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Fall back in love with your library

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Did you know that February is National Library Lovers’ Month?

Visiting the library every weekend is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

I loved the whole deal – having my very own library card, choosing brand new stories, watching the librarian scan and stamp the books… You name it, I was hooked. I would trot home and start reading.

My mum always said it didn’t matter too much what we read. It was all about cultivating a love of books and giving us confidence in our reading abilities.

Libraries are for all of us

The library is one of the only public spaces we can occupy without an expectation that we’ll buy something, without a timer on our table.

Libraries bring people together and offer crucial resources on wellbeing, mental health and finance, to name but a few.

When I take my children to the library, something magical happens. They explore the type of books they might not pick up at home. They’re overjoyed to find new books in a beloved series or to revisit a forgotten favourite from when they were younger.

It’s incredible to watch them fall under the unique spell of books and to be lost in a good story without the distraction of screens or time pressures.

And when they see adults browsing and enjoying books too, it shows them that this is something worthwhile, worth emulating.

But with new books one click away online, it’s easy to fall out of the habit of using the library.

Here are 5 reasons to fall back in love with libraries

  1. The free Libby app (UK) allows you to borrow ebooks, audiobooks and magazines from your library. You can stream titles or download them to read offline. All you need is your library card and an internet connection.
  2. Many libraries have online collections, some of which are accessible from anywhere. You can find the British Library’s digital collections here.
  3. Author events are a fantastic way to learn more about your favourite books and authors. We recently had Elly Griffiths, author of the Dr Ruth Galloway series, at a sell-out event.
  4. Can’t find a new release? Many libraries will let you order newer titles online and then notify you when the book is ready for collection.
  5. The Public Lending Right (PLR) remunerates authors for books borrowed from public libraries. In many cases, this is comparable to book sales from the larger distributors. And every author I knew grew up in a library(!) and is delighted that their book can be borrowed and enjoyed.

Do you love your library? Do you think it’s time to renew your library card and head back through the magical doors? Let me know! You can find me talking books on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Are you a writer or an author?

Do you call yourself a writer or an author? Or do you use the two interchangeably?

I tend to refer to myself as a writer. I’ve always said I’ll call myself an author if and when I get published.

But what if the way we refer to ourselves is holding us back?

Check out this simple illustration. I searched, ‘Why are writers…’ and – bar a few exceptions – the results are pretty negative.

Swap in the word ‘author’ and look what happens…

It made me wonder…

How often do we limit our own narratives?

How does our own language shape our perceptions of our own abilities?

Perhaps we don’t want to make assumptions, to take up space. Maybe we don’t want other people to think we’re above our station.

Perhaps it’s imposter syndrome getting the upper hand. Perhaps we don’t want to be challenged and admit that no, I’m not published… yet.

So what does ‘author’ really mean?

The word ‘author’ comes from the Latin, augere, meaning to increase, originate or promote. I love that it also picks up a little of the English ‘authentic’ along the way.

So, there you have it. If you’re creating stories and worlds and people, you’re an author.

You’re authentic.

Yes, you.

So no more standing in your own way!