In other words, it was a report of 26 now wildly famous writers who endured hefty rejections earlier in their careers.
Is it a topic to which you can relate?
Stephen King collected his rejection slips on a nail, until he received so many the nail would no longer hold them. Then, he switched to a spike and kept on writing.
Sylvia Plath, one of the country’s most renowned poets, once said, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
I shared these insights with a friend this week, who had just undergone a pretty grisly rejection of her own. An essay she had been tirelessly working on was met with a hefty dose of harsh criticism at a writer’s conference. It made her mad; after all, she had poured a lot of work into her piece. She was determined to not let it get her down, she said. Quite the opposite: the criticism made her more determined to get that darn essay published.
The beauty of it is that rejection is a universal story among all good writers. If you haven’t encountered a snarly rejection, a “No thanks” that at least momentarily stabs you in the heart, I submit you’re not working hard enough as an artist.
Look at Sylvia Plath. Her rejections were reminders that she was, at the very least, hard at work.
I heard the story of a salesman who gloried in the numerous rejections he encountered. For every 10 or so rejections he received, he reasoned, he was met with one success. That meant that by the time he received 100 “no’s,” he would have received 10 “yes’s.” And 10 yes’s were all he needed to be a wild success.
How’s that for attitude?
Every time I receive a rejection for a piece – be it via a literary journal, a magazine, or elsewhere – I do a little dance. Because each rejection is, for me, a reminder that I am at least putting myself out there.
Think about it. The only way to guarantee a “No” is to not try at all.
And you never know what doors might open if you simply give your work a chance.
When a popular writing newsletter sponsored a writing contest with the prompt “Why I Write,” I decided to give it a go. I knew the chances of winning any contest were slim, but I found the topic so compelling – and I felt I had much to explore under that umbrella – that I sketched out an essay and sent it off.
It didn’t win.
However, a year later, I pitched to Writer’s Digest. And you know what? They said “Yes.” The piece, “Artmaking,” was published in March.
I used to (nerd that I am) keep a tally sheet next to my computer with two columns: “A” (for “Acceptance”) and “R” (for “Rejection”). I’ll give you one guess which column racked up the colorful strike marks.
I don’t do that anymore, but I do hold on to every rejection I receive. For me, like Plath, they show me I try. And besides, they might just make some really intriguing bathroom wallpaper someday.
What is your best tale of rejection? How do you handle rejection? Is it something you fear?