In writing, and in relationships, rejections are inevitable. When we give someone (a love interest, a family member, a friend, an employer, or a publisher) the power to save us, we also give him or her the power to destroy us. It is our response and the manner in which we handle that destruction that decides our fate, not the rejection itself.
We must not live in fear of rejection, whether it comes within a relationship disappointment and a broken heart, or a manuscript brush off and a disenchantment. James Lee Burke, an American Mystery Writer, said, “ Every rejection is an incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work”. Paying our dues is another way of saying “work hard, learn from your mistakes, while keeping in mind that you may not necessarily enjoy the process in the meantime, in the end the pain will have been worth it”. Heck, for anyone who exercises, we know without pain there is no gain (of muscle, not unwanted weight- of course!).
Rejection, if used properly, is a tool in our writer’s box that helps us become stronger or better at what we do. We must get back on the horse that bucked us if we want to learn how to ride. Likewise, a profound phrase quoted by Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill reads as follows; ”There is nothing so good for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” What better way to most fully learn than to be taught through rejection. It is the forsaking that pushes us forward, not the medals, trophies or prizes we obtain the first time we succeed. If we become complacent with the first award we receive, we lower our ceilings before we have had the chance to discover the taller buildings out there- with higher ceilings to reach.
Walt Disney was told he lacked imagination when he was rejected. (Can you imagine that one?) Albert Einstein couldn’t process lessons in the “normal/ traditional” manner in which other students would and was subsequently, rejected. Likewise, Charles Darwin, who published The Origin of Species, dropped out of school at one point, and Dr. Seuss’s first book; To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street was rejected more than 25 times before it was published. Even Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K Rowling were rejected before getting published. In fact, many great writers are rejected countless times before they make it, yet they advise new writers; To allow rejection to discourage us, we seal our own fate and we have no one else to blame but ourselves.
In one of 26 rejections received from all major publishers, Vladimir Nabokov was told; “I recommend that your project be buried under a stone for a thousand years”. Despite that grim advice, Nabokov found a publisher in France who agreed to publish Lolita. Those publishers who had initially rejected his manuscript eventually published it, selling more than 50 million copies. Nabokov could have read the advice he received to bury his manuscript, and walked away, giving up on himself and the potential readers who would be deprived of his work, but instead he used those words like fuel to drive him further and harder. And guess what- it worked!
Rejection is inevitable, so use it to your advantage. Rather than feel broken -hearted or disappointed, allow the rejection to help you get better and stronger at what you do and who you are, or who you want to become. Whether it is in your writing process, working through a relationship, or playing a sport, rejection in some form will always work its way into your life. It is your response, and how you deal with it that gives it the power to defeat you, or on the other hand, to embolden you, and that power is always only yours to give away- or to put to good use.