—(Originally appeared in Publishers Weekly)—
In her latest column, BookWorks founder and veteran editor, Betty Kelly Sargent offers some consolation to a writer who is struggling with rejection.
How can I better deal with rejection when submitting stories? I feel so demoralized every time I get a "no" back. But it happens to everyone, right?
Absolutely right. Professional rejection is a big part of life for all creative people. If you’re an actor, painter, musician or writer you just have to expect to hear endless no-thank-yous, especially early in your career. And you are NOT alone.
Even the Mighty Have Faced Rejection
Here are some examples of rejections received by well-known authors that should cheer you up.
“…does it have to be a whale? …we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could not the Captain be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”
—on Herman Melville's Moby-Dick
“I haven’t the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say. Apparently, the author intends to be funny.”
—on Joseph Heller's Catch-22
“I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”
—on Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past
“…overwhelmingly nauseating…I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”
—on Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita
“You’re welcome to le Carre—he hasn’t got any future.”
—on John le Carre's The Spy Who Came In From The Cold
Develop a Thick Skin
And, as Harper Lee says, “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
So take heart. Try to learn from your rejection letters and figure out what you might do better. But if you’re writing about a whale—I’d keep the whale.
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