Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Writing and Rejection

Stephen King was once told that his kind of writing does not sell. John le Carre was described as a writer who "has no future." Gone with the Wind was rejected thirty-eight times. After dozens of rejections, J. K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book finally found a small UK publisher willing to consider it only at the urging of the CEO's eight-year-old daughter.

Writers and rejection go hand in hand. How we deal with it can determine whether we achieve success, however we define it. But one thing is certain:  no one succeeds who stops trying.

Perhaps the first rejection is the hardest. It dispels the dream of being another Daniel Nava who, on June 12, hit a grand slam home run off of his first major-league pitch. But just because we don't hit a grand slam in our first at bat does not mean we never will.

Sometimes rejection can be a good thing--just as pruning can be good for a bush. It can encourage growth. Many authors have a half-dozen abandoned manuscripts in a drawer before they sell one, but rejection of earlier works could be the motivator the writer needed to do better with each subsequent effort. 

Some writers feel like giving up after a few rejection letters. Why, they reason, should they expose their egos to further bruising? It would be easier if we learned to expect rejection while still hoping for acceptance--a hard balance, but one that would help when the inevitable rejection occurs. Rejection is not really about the author; it is just about the work. It's not personal, but it still feels that way.

I am not arguing that rejection is not discouraging. There is an often-repeated story that Stephen King threw away his manuscript of Carrie because he was so discouraged by repeated rejection. Supposedly it was his wife who rescued it from the trash. It helps to have people who believe in us--but we must also believe in ourselves.

The higher we set our goals, the harder it can be to reach them--and the longer it can take. But we're only letting ourselves down if we let a little failure keep us from continuing to try. 

So, when we get a rejection, we should try to look upon it as a disappointment, but not a failure. And we should keep going--keep striving. For that is the only way we can truly succeed.

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