The Way I Roll

I recently received an email from someone telling me how lucky I am that “everything” I submit gets published. Quick to clear that misconception, I responded that for every article or essay of mine that gets accepted, I receive at least a dozen rejections. Here’s a photo of the most recent:

In an email conversation with my cousin, he made an observation that made me smile. He said, “It’s funny how the harder we work, the luckier we get.” 

I could easily pack up my marbles and go home at rejection. Or I can pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again—that’s the way I roll.

How do you respond to rejection?

© TuesdaysWithLaurie.com

69 thoughts on “The Way I Roll

  1. I guess it might depend on how we feel about what we do. If we’re feeling pretty insecure, a rejection my trash our hopes. If we know that rejection is part of the process, we might put it down to experience and part and parcel of what we do. It’s difficult not to question yourself if all you get are rejections, though. In my case, the more personal the project is, the worst it is. But sometimes disinterest or lack of response is far worse than rejection.

  2. Your cousin is very wise. Writers, like actors, get that a lot. I heard an interview with a 30-something actor who was told, “you’re so lucky to have made it so big so early in your career.” He scoffed and said “I’ve been working three jobs as waiter and bouncer and janitor to have enough money to stay here and try for hundreds of auditions. Failed every time.” But no, I don’t see rejection as a failure. I love reading about writers who use rejection slips as wallpaper, or tape them near their computer to keep them going. Rejections mean you feel good enough about your writing, your words, to put them out there, over and over again, until they ‘stick.’ xo

  3. I don’t know a writer that hasn’t had rejections. It’s part of the process, and we’ve all heard of famous writers who had manuscripts rejected that went on to become popular, well-known works. I think, too, there are all sorts of rejections. Being rejected by someone as a lover or friend is very different than a publisher rejecting you because your piece doesn’t fit their vision. Of course, it’s still not fun, but it’s understandable.

    • Merrill — Yes, another human being looking us in the eye and rejecting us FEELS vastly different from a publishing rejection, but in my personal experience, I still gather the shattered bits of myself together and move forward.

  4. I came to non-fiction writing after a career in academia when I experienced very little rejection when I submitted to journals in my field. Rejection in my new genre feels more personal because writing about one’s life IS personal. I have learned through trial and error that I need to more wise about where I submit manuscripts. Mennonite publications with a smaller circulation are more likely to publish my work than magazines with a huge circulation like Guideposts or Real Simple, which are flooded with unsolicited submissions every month. Like you, I keep trying because I’m not a quitter.

    On my desktop is a rejection letter the prolific writer Ursula LeGuin received. It is arrogant, mean-spirited, but laughable in light of her stature as a prose writer and poet: http://www.ursulakleguin.com/Reject.html

  5. I agree that how you react to rejection is half the battle. I had a sales manager once give me a Q-tip. It was to remind me of the acronym “quit taking it personally.” That was a great way to remember it!

    Love your blog!!

  6. Hard work brings its own rewards. I never believed in luck: every little thing I’ve got I earned through hard work and perseverance, not least the command of the English language, which has taken me 30 odd years… Good on you for not giving up, Laurie! 👍👍👍

  7. I love that letter, being kind while saying no. Sometimes we need some rejection to make us stronger, more determined. Sometimes it does the opposite. It’s our choice, isn’t it?

  8. I have to respond much like Marian above. I haven’t experienced much rejection either in academe or in nonfiction writing (with a small press) — until now. I knew that I was going to be rejected when I tried to write op-ed pieces for “large circulation” publications. I wrote my first op-ed directed at the Huffington Post and submitted it three times without any response at all. Then I went back to the drawing board and looked at the largest newspaper close to where I am living and sent my (rewritten) essay, “A Birthday Letter to Hillary,” to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. They took it and published it. The process was laborious and could easily have resulted in no publication. It was educational, however, and that’s all I really want from my work. If I can continue learning (and then share what I learn), I’m fulfilling my vocation.

  9. Depends on the situation. With rejection to writing submissions, I do like Laurie does and keep re-sending the pitch or story (if it is fiction or memoir) elsewhere. Hey, I’m a former journalist pf 30+ years so have developed a tough skin with writing and submitting. I am also a freelance editor so work from the other side of the fence, but the writing side has taught me to be sympathetic but realistic with authors, especially with bad news for them. I believe the operative words are “diplomatic and helpful.”

  10. Back when I was single I got daily rejections messages from future super models and A-list celebrities, but that worked out in my favor because I met Miss Madison instead :). Professional/bloggy world my advice to any novice is just keep doing what got you noticed in the first place. Stay patient and stay the course and opportunities will come your way should you choose to go down that route.

  11. Today, I received a rejection from a coaching prospect. The company I work for sends out three bios. Interviews follow. In this case, our interview conversation was energizing, and the prospect was even talking about locations for coaching. Then today, I was told he chose another coach. We, the other two coaches, never get a sense of why. I would like to know so I can either accept the “no” fully or appreciate someone else has more to contribute to an individual’s situation or learn if there was something I could do differently. At times there is also a choice made by the prospect to select a male over a female coach or younger vs. older.
    I know the prospective client has to be comfortable with their choice. So, except for the lost financial opportunity hit, I do work to let it go.
    On writing, I’ve only submitted a story to two contests so far. I was rejected by both. As a new non-fiction/memoir writer, I knew this was entirely possible. I was blessed with positive, kind feedback and a few suggestions on what they would have enjoyed seeing more of. All received as valuable golden nuggets.
    Comparing the two, I’m sensing more of a sting when I know I have strong competence
    to offer and rejection still comes.

    • Audrey — Aware of your caliber and competencies in that arena, I, too, am curious to know the reason for the person’s choice.

      In the writing world, I appreciate those “valuable golden nuggets” of feedback as you put it so well. Especially if it’s something I have the power (and agree with the reason) to change. Here’s an example of a time when I did NOT agree…

      I’d sent a manuscript to a well-known publishing house in San Francisco. After reading it, the editor said she wasn’t interested in that particular piece of work, but liked my “voice” and asked if I had anything else to send her. I immediately sent her the “Note to Self” manuscript. After reading the one-page cover letter (only) that briefly describes the “seven selves” we each have, she wrote back and said, “…just the thought of having seven selves exhausts me. Can you change it to one?” And that was the end of that. In hind sight, I’m so glad it worked out that way!

      • Yes, I’m with you 100%!!! Apparently, she missed the entire concept. 😘
        The spectrum of mirrors offered in the seven significantly enhances your book’s value. Thank you for your ongoing support.
        I often also hear in my heart (in those “no” moments) Parker Palmer’s statements about way closing, way opening. Maybe the message from the universe today is: tighten your belt, focus on your memoir, or even something or someone better is coming.

      • Audrey — “…tighten your belt, focus on your memoir, or even something or someone better is coming.”

        I’m confident you’ll be able to take that to the bank and cash it 🙂

  12. Hi Laurie
    I’ve had no real option but to simply accept it as someone else’s opinion and get on with doing what seems most appropriate to me.
    I have been rejectd by most for most of my life, and there has also always been a group (though often a small one) that accepted me, and saw something in me.

    I clearly recall at ag 5 being in the room when my first teach told my parents that I was “retarded” and would always be “a burden on society”. That coming from a flap of skin under my tongue that prevented me from speaking clearly.

    And it started much sooner than that. My inability to make the sort of noises most kids made pointed me out from a very early age as someone different, and difference often results in exclusion and unwanted attention from bullies.

    So from a very early age I had to develop an ability to value myself and my own choices that was essentially independent of others.

    Today I chair many organisations, and am involved in many others, and I still often have more failures than successes.
    One of my dad’s favourite sayings was “there is only one thing certain in fishing, you can’t catch fish with you nets in the boat” – though one night a flying fish did land in the nets in the boat – so even that wasn’t absolutely certain, and it was certainly far more probable than the alternative.

    I have learned to simply accept what happens, to look for lessons, to keep on being the best me I can be, looking out for my own interests and the interests of everyone else.
    Do what little I can, when I can, to improve things for everyone. (And sometimes it seems that all I have emotional energy for is breathing, and at other times I am a little more capable.)

    If we can all do that, then we all win – little by little.

    Fall over, stand up, take another step. If the path is interesting enough, it is always worth doing.

    • Ted — I’ve known you for ten years now (we met in the original Zaadz group in Dec, 2006). During that time I’ve held you in high esteem because of your positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing approach to humanity as a whole (no exclusivity with you – always inclusive).

      I despise that you were teased and bullied as a child. But I love that you always stand up and take another step. I admire that about you.

      And I had to laugh that a flying fish landed in a net on your boat. I hope your dad was still alive to enjoy the humor in that! 🙂

  13. I don’t get a lot of rejection letters. I get more non-responses, especially from online submissions. I’ve only had one semi-nasty, personal “what were you thinking?” kind of thing. I have received several very apologetic rejection letters. One was very upset because my application reached him after he had already filled a staff writing vacancy.

    The first response I received on my book after the publisher requested the manuscript was, “We love the concept, just not this version of it. Could you do a re-write?” That one took a few minutes to think about. They wanted me to change pretty much everything — my baby. How dare they! But after I settled down I realized most of their request made sense and went for it. I learned at lot from the publishing experience, won a few, lost a few and compromised a lot, but no real regrets other than wishing we’d negotiated a better contract, since you are often stuck with a first contract for future books with the same publisher.

    • Espirational — The cool thing is you’re able to say, “I learned a lot from the publishing experience.” Then it was worth it. As to the contract, I had an intellectual property attorney go over mine with a fine tooth comb. In my estimation, it was worth every penny of his fee.

  14. Great post. I don’t look at it as rejection anymore, it is just the nature of the work. In the early 90’s I learned to let go of any criticism of my art, writing or music. I feel that any press, positive or negative, or the receipt of a rejection letter means my work is out there. That’s why we do what we do as artist, writers, priests and poets, LOL. Namaste 🙂

  15. I know not every one will like the work I produce, I feel the same way, even a good artist can produce something that won’t ring everyone’s bells. You just try to do the best you can… always… with what you do. I don’t paint that much anymore, my creative talents were poured into something I could make a pretty much guaranteed living at – Floral and garden design. If 25 people looked at my work and passed it over, the 26th would write a check and take it home. Call it luck, call it fate, call it timing, if enough people see it, someone will love it enough to want to own it. If you are trying to sell something, you are putting yourself out there, forget being overly sensitive and KNOW someone out there wants what you have to offer.

  16. Such an important topic, Laurie. Thank you. What’s helped me with rejection is the recognition that a rejection says more about the rejector than the rejectee (me). Except, of course, for all those rejections of my manuscript that taught me it needed a lot more work. It’s a choice, what we believe. As someone above has said.

  17. Laurie, now that I am one year away from sixty, rejection is usually something that does not bother me at all. Where I still struggle is when my children or grandchildren experience rejection. This tears out my heart and will rise up and haunt me at any odd moment.

  18. My dad used to say that I didn’t try hard enough …he’s right and I am ashamed of my self for not trying . Unfortunately I belive the first person who says I’m rubbish AND if they don’t tell be I am rubbish them I help them out a bit with the downside to anything I have done .
    I agree with you Laurie don’t let them put you down , dust yourself off and try again . I belive it but don’t apply it .
    It certainly proves it in your case , hang on in there girl , because you get results eventually…yours is well deserved ❤️️
    Cherryx

  19. I have read a number of books for review that made me wonder why the publisher picked this one to publish, one in particular had really nothing I could find to say good about it and I decided to read it a second time because this was someone’s “baby” and the publisher thought it was worth it. I did succeed in finding something worthwhile in the story and a lot worthwhile in discovering the author’s story – It was a Make a WISH grant for a young woman who died shortly after it was published….it was her wish to have lived this story to it’s happy ending. The story only sold about 25,000 copies ( Maybe her family bought most of them?) and her wish came through. I always, always now work at finding something positive to say about each book I review and it helps me. I have been rejected so very many times especially in my career choice, I just had to re-tie my boots and find something to like about myself even more. Heck, I was born with cancer and was rejected by every health insurance on the market until the Affordable Healthcare Act. No job ever paid my Social Security Withholding so I became self-employed and paid for it myself. I am proud of my tiny, but consistent monthly check now.
    I think all the criticism my family constantly dished out on me, gave me the strength to ignore the sting of the rejection and go for the good of it. I don’t dwell on the times of depression, because I look for the Good in it – the lesson to come.

  20. “It’s funny how the harder we work, the luckier we get.” : so true… And also it is a fact that the best writers have been rejected (some of them many times!)…. I liked reading your thoughts here dear Laurie… wishing you happy holidays (in advance!) 😀

  21. This is a great post for reflecting Laurie. I have a hard time with rejection because of my “type A” personality. I have to remind myself it’s not personal sometimes and it’s difficult. Other times, I can just shake it off and sing “Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be”. Tina

  22. This is really a tremendous post Laurie! And both candid and humble. You are an amazing writer and person! The publishing industry has been blessed by your work. Like just about everyone, I can’t say rejection is the most gratifying of experiences. Usually when some of your writing is ignored, especially by a few that might be on the receiving end of your glowing praise it is a bit disconcerting. But the best way to handle it is just to move on, and the next day or week will probably have you smiling after another wildly acknowledges you. 🙂 In other words, take it all in stride.

  23. Of course when doing submissions, many times our work is rejected, sometimes it’s like winning the lottery. But it’s nice when someone sends a personal note letting ud know that their not choosing us wasn’t because our work wasn’t acceptable, a gentle thanks, but no thanks. 🙂

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