From the Archives, Nano 2011: Rejection Reaction

It’s November and that means it’s NANOWRIMO. To celebrate my first Nanowrimo novel, Zero Repeat Forever being on the way to publication by Simon & Schuster I’m revisiting a few posts from that crazy month, November 2011.

(first posted 2011/11/22)

Something beautiful happened yesterday on Miss Snark’s First Victim. An author entered one of Miss Starks’ contests and wasn’t chosen as a finalist – was rejected, in other words. The writer, going by anonymous, posted this reply:

This has proven to me that I should give up on writing, though. Not being a sore loser, just opening my eyes to the facts that I don’t stand a chance if I can’t even win a blog contest. Time to move on. 🙂

The response was phenomenal. Dozens of posters replied with encouraging comments along the lines of “don’t give up”. My personal favorite was this one, tough-love, but needed I think:

Everyone on here is so nice and thank goodness for that, I’m a nice person too; however, to Anon (10:53AM), here’s a little tough love: if you’re going to let one competition determine the fate of your writing, then maybe you should leave the profession. Leave, grow a thicker skin, grow a better belief in what you have to say, then come back. You are your biggest believer. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else ever will. Period.

Ouch. Take that, writer with self doubt.  But this poster (also anonymous) is being firm but fair. The number one quality a successful writer needs is not talent, but COURAGE. And facing rejection with this kind of pessimism is not courage, but EGO. Where is it written that everyone must love your work? Success as a writer is a never-ending search for people to whom your work appeals. It won’t appeal to everyone. Even J.K. Rowling has critics. And yes, she was rejected many times.

I have two files full of rejections, one for screenplays and the other, optimistically labeled “other”. Sometimes I think I might wallpaper the walls of my office with them. You know why? Because they are a reminder that I have the one essential quality that most, yes I said most, writers don’t have, that is the courage to send their work out into the world.

While doing NaNoWriMo (46,033 thank you) I have met many fellow writers who have no intention of trying to sell this NaNo manuscript or anything else.  I get it, they are writing for fun. That’s OK.  But I have also met many writers who tell me, in hushed tones, that they have written two, three, four, five or more books or screenplays that they have NEVER shown ANYONE! And they desperately want to, but they have never had the courage.

Celebrate each rejection, writers. Wear it as a badge of courage. And to that Anonymous writer who was thinking about giving up, just…don’t, OK? You have more courage than thousands, maybe millions of writers all over the world, throughout history. You’re a better writer than Emily Dickinson, for god’s sake. She wrote beautiful poems, but she lacked the courage to share them.

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