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Letter 4: On rejections and building resilience in writing and life

Shweta Taneja
Shweta Taneja
Welcome! Dear Penpal is a fortnightly newsletter by me, Shweta Taneja, to support you in your creative journey with tips, opportunities and a few laughs. THANK YOU for being here.
In my 4th letter, I talk about facing rejection for a book, and finding a new opportunity thanks to a sense of resilience. And why you should never give up on your creative dreams.

Dear Penpal,
Exactly two years ago, my current editor rejected my brand new science-fiction manuscript.
This wasn’t the first time I’d faced rejection. I’ve been writing fiction and non-fiction for two decades now and have a collection of rejection emails, messages and letters.
However, this constantly increasing pile of rejections has also encouraged a stubborn sense of resilience in me. That’s the only way I can continue to be creative and do what I do best – write new stories. It’s my resilience, the ability to bounce back from rejection, to be determined that has allowed me to experiment with new forms of writing. 
And that’s what I hope you do too.
Cultivate a sense of resilience to rejections.
For it’s the very nature of creating something new. If it’s an innovative piece of art – there’s a high chance that it will constantly face failure and rejection from the established industry, before someone takes a chance on it. 
So never, ever give up.
Don’t give up if someone tells you your path will be difficult. Don’t give up when someone rejects your work. You have to accept it, you have to build resilience. For no matter how many successes you see, you will keep facing the failure of a blank page. Or face rejection by a publisher or an editor, or a gate-keeper to an industry for various reasons. Instead, become free and fearless so you can push your creative boundaries.
Sometimes, this stubborn sense of bouncing back also brings in new opportunities.
The editor who rejected my science fiction story? Sensing that she had warmed up to my work, I asked her what she was looking for to publish. (I didn’t give up) She was looking for good narrative non-fiction. I remembered a book on science I had wanted to write, wrote a pitch and a chapter and emailed her.
Earlier this year, the book, They Made What? They Found What? got published and became a bestseller.
Now I’ve become a science writer and am getting new opportunities to write books.
My SF manuscript still remains unpublished with me, but I’m not giving up. Much like a dog, each book has its own day and as a creator, I would not ever give up on things I create.
Have you faced a rejection recently? Write to me with your stories of rejection and resilience! I would love to hear back from you. 
Sundry Sunday
Read new SF. Author Gareth Powell, who is one of the kindest, most supportive SF writers I’ve met, has a list of 40 must-reads from recent science fiction releases. I highly recommend the list having read half of these titles over last year!
Become a green eater. Change your diet and save the environment with this useful calculator on what foods to eat and how much carbon they release.
Restore a lake. It’s World Environment Day month and I have a lake in front of my home that needs active restoration. I’ve been reading manuals and books on how I can practically restores ecosystems around me. Find a useful manual from UN Environment here to restore an ecosystem around you.
Covid and the Himalayas. Loved this story on how a novelist dealt with covid-19 in a small Himalayan town. Gorgeously written by author Anuradha Roy.
Vaccine Humour. I found this lovely illustration by PenPencilDraw on the dance around vaccines that many of us are facing currently. Made me laugh.
Writing updates
Folktales from Meghalaya. I came across this article on travel to Meghalaya and Khasi folk tales that I’d written for Discover India years ago. Someday, I would like to write a beautiful travelogue on nature and folk tales from different parts of the world.
Panel at Bangalore International Centre. I conversed with Dr Kartik Shanker from IISc and author Veena Prasad on how we could tackle climate challenges through science. It was a panel full of sparking conversation and a few much-needed laughs. See it here.
They Made What?
They Made What?
Keep that chin up, folks.
P.S. If you like this newsletter and want to support it, you can:
1) Buy one of my books
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Shweta Taneja
Shweta Taneja @shwetawrites

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Shweta Taneja, Bangalore, Karnataka, India