I used to cringe when my agent sent me rejection letters from an editor at some swanky big publishing house saying no thanks to my work…
“The author seems great, but I’m afraid this title isn’t for us.”
“Terrific concept, but we just signed on a similar book.”
“We’d love to see anything else by her, but this particular title seems as if it would be better as a magazine article.”
Oh, no prob. I’ll just whittle down these 450 pages into a few columns no longer than 1,500 words. Pronto. And, OTHER things from her? Was this woman nuts? I’d just spent two YEARS, full time, crafting my first book and proposal as if the rent was due (it was). That’s 730 days short on sleep, and long on waving goodbye to my family as they went to movies, dinners, and even a family reunion without me. This was it, baby. All she wrote. Or, all I’d ever write.
Okay. Live and learn. Lots of books have followed. Ideas, like email, never stop flooding in. And, mastery in any job requires compromise. But, these days, when I look at those letters of rejections, I smile. They’re like old friends. The ones who taught me to love myself. Believe in my visions. And skip to the beat of my own funky inner boom box.
Especially after these two rejections came in, on the SAME day (for my first book, Lives Charmed, a collection of interviews I did with 17 very blessed and wise people)...
1. “The people in this anthology are too famous. Everyone already knows about them. We’d like to see stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things.”
2. “You need bigger names. The interviewees in this book aren’t yet well-known enough.”
Crazymaking, right? While these rejections made me feel far, f a r, f a a a r, away from my goals of authorship, I’m so glad they came in tandem–reminding me to keep my sense of humor and to listen to stellar advice. I worked that much harder at getting those “bigger” names, and soon interviewed Arnold Palmer. My publisher was a fan, as was our audience. No doubt that helped.
My point? Stay in the game. Put your work out there. And keep your rejection letters! One day you’ll be laughing about them with your buddies at your book party, reminiscing about the days of “no’s.”
“Rejection letters are the new black,” says Bill Shapiro. In a terrific article posted on Huffington (link below), he encourages today’s college grads to shoot high, aim for their dreams, and collect the rejection letters that pour in, knowing that one day they’ll be celebrating.
I see the same for you. Your heartbreaking no’s will become big, fat YESSES! But not if you’re hoarding or hiding your memoir, short stories, essays, novel, self-help masterpiece–whatever you’ve got stashed away in your bottom desk drawer. You need to thrust that brilliance out into the sunshine and let it breathe! Or, as my writing assistant Natalie says, “Look up at the sky where the cumulous clouds and starry nights reside, and aim high. Again and again.”
Rejection letters are a healthy part of the process of writing. Stabilizing, even. They ground you, helping to at least tether your feet to solid ground. Stephen King collected rejection letters for years, tacking them to the cork board in his bedroom, starting at the age of thirteen. With each no, he knew he was one step closer to that yes.
So, forget the fear. Embrace the idea of rejection… As the old saying goes, “Rejection is God’s protection.” I truly believe God wants our work in the most loving and compassionate hands. And, when it’s truly ready, your agent and editor will do the happy dance… about YOU!
This week, I encourage you to take that risk, whatever writing risk you’ve been putting off for fear of rejection. Jump in. You’ll soon find that the water’s warm with yeses.
And, to see some great historical rejection letters, read Bill Shapiro’s Huff post…
Happy Writing! Happy Tuesday!