Jun 6, 2009

Overcoming Rejection

By Christine Thackeray

I don't understand the writer that works on a project for hours and hours without wanting to submit it for publication. I write to share ideas, stories and beauty with others. The more who can enjoy what I've created, the happier I am.

Most writers I've met who hesitate to share their work become reclusive out of fear of rejection. I was raised with four brothers whose humor ranged from the amusingly sarcastic to the viciously sardonic. Through my awkward teenager years, they freed me of that problem initially.

Rejection is part of the acceptance process. I truly believe the only way to overcome a fear of the real pain involved when someone casts your "baby" aside is to get calloused up the same way our bare feet do in the summer. Growing up in New England, we had a gravel driveway. I vividly recall that at the beginning of the summer walking on it was torture equivalent to crossing hot coals. But as the bottoms of our feet endured the pain, healed and then endured it again, we toughened up. One fourth of July I was dashing down the driveway in barefeet when I suddenly remembered how painful it had been to tiptoe across that same surface just a few months before and was amazed.

Jessica Day George is a YA writer who has recently enjoyed great success. I listened to her speak last year about her first acceptance. She said that she received ninety-nine rejections before finally being accepted. She looked at each rejection as being one step closer to that final acceptance. What got me is that she kept trying. In contrast when I finished my first story "Murder in Pleasant Valley", a 600 page black humor piece about a woman found dead in the church kitchen on Enrichment night with a mylar back duct-taped to her head and a donut stuffed in her mouth, I thought it the most clever work ever created. Imagine my devastation when every LDS publisher I could think of had rejected it.

Without even thinking of rewriting it, I gave up. If it wasn't for my sister pulling me into her project which got published, I never would have considered totally revamping the story to something that would sell. Most of my first book is still lying somewhere on the cutting room floor, but from one subplot with a change of POV "Crayon Messages" was born, my first published novel.

As I continue to write, not all of what I do is intended to be published. Some of it is like the etchings in a sketchpad that allow me to explore and practice. Yet if I were only writing "for me," I wouldn't be challenged enough to improve my craft. We all know people who play the piano not very well and would never agree to play in public. Years later there is little improvement. Now think of the hesitant ward pianists you have heard who have solidly improved through their calling.

This was a year of LOTS of rejection for me. I wrote three manuscripts, none of which are under contract. One was requested to be rewritten, the other is being considered and the third is waning in a computer file. As I complete this rewrite, I know that if it's rejected I can't let it get to me. No matter what I'll move on with optimism and hope in my next project. Perhaps if that one's a bestseller, people will suddenly be dying to read other work I've done, and I can brush it off and get it published later. Either way, having a relationship with the professional writing community, even if it is only a pile of rejection letters, pushes me to improve.

George Flaubert said, "It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer. Those who do not do this remain amateurs." I almost agree but have to add that by reaching to consistently raise the level of our prose and working to be accepted by an unbiased professional editor, we become more than a writer. We become more confident, enduring and skilled... and perhaps may even make it to the status of author.


  1. I swear I have alzheimer's! I totally forgot that I wrote the other one and SORRY Kristine I must have pre-submitted it with the wrong date. UGH!

  2. I wondered at getting two blogs from you this week, but I'm enjoying both. You're amazing. I see a lot more productivity in you, and am trying to get more into myself. I've been just playing around at writing, but am determined to get serious.
    Love you.

  3. LOL...Christine, thoroughly enjoyed reading your post...and felt a little better at having pushed the wrong button and published mine a day early! Anna was very gracious and forgiving. Your words hit a nerve for me because I let getting rejected a couple of times persuade me that I wasn't a good enough writer. I am learning however, that I can always get better...but it takes diligence and courage. Thanks for shaking me up a bit!

  4. Rejection is tough. I should know ugh.

  5. Thanks Christine - What a great post!
    I was terrified to admit that I'd begun writing. Making my family take an oath (which they broke). I've since finished my novel and will soon begin the process of rejection from the world - BUT, what helps me - is to know that Heavenly Father gave me the gift to create, (however undeserving I think I am) I HAVE to trust that if I do HIS will, he will magnify my weaknesses and comfort my fears. AND...if I'm smart enough to leave the results up to Him, I might be able to keep my sanity, and not fall into the world of insecurity and depression.
    BUT...that's easier said then done.
    So it's One day at a time for me.

  6. It helps so much to read of other author's journeys. You eneded with perhaps you may even make it to the status of author. Hold the fort. YOU ARE AN AUTHOR! Please repeat this in the mirror to yourself every day. "I am an author." We each need to do this until we BELIEVE IT!

  7. Great post, no matter when or where or how often you've posted!!!


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