When my first play was selected to be ‘produced’ by the city's regional arts collaboration, I was barely 12. Yippee-skippee! I got to miss math and chemistry while I 'directed' and 'starred' in my own upstairs-downstairs murder mystery.
I won again the following year, and my 13-year-old-self was overcome with glee as I got to openly express rude comments about our headmistress. You see, it wasn’t really me calling Miss Reid a silly old nincompoop with a broom up her bottom, it was him over there—Sherlock Holmes!
Since this was a ‘bigger production’, I took the smaller role of Watson, and gave my best friend her first starring role as Holmes. (Alas, with the exception of a pompous uniformed doorman and two very strange caretakers, it was an all-girls school, ergo no kissing scenes between Sherlock and the woman who tried to lead him astray.)
Some 20 years passed before I wrote anything else beyond love letters, shopping lists, or business reports. Maybe it was naiveté, beginner’s luck, or simply being in the right place at the right time, but the first piece I submitted was accepted and published in a national magazine. Piece of cake, I thought, while quickly hacking out my second query. And that’s when it reared its ugly head. The thing that human potential experts say almost everyone fears more than death itself: R.E.J.E.C.T.I.O.N.
I was half expecting it. I’d been a corporate manager the past 15 years; I'd studied motivation, communication, leadership, and human potential. I'd taught sales psychology, overcoming objections, reading buying signals, turning around rejection. I knew that for every sale one of my employees made, they’d need to average a hundred calls.
It was business, I knew not to take it personally; I knew to deal with it and move on to the next. But it shook the perfectionist in me just enough that I felt certain I had nothing more to offer and I didn’t write for another two years.
Retreating into the cloisters of the corporate closet, I secretly plotted and dreamed of quitting the bank, letting the door slam loud and hard on my way out. I read every book about writing, or writers, that I could lay my eyes on. Sat through dozens of seminars with some of LA’s finest—and worst. And talked with other writers, well-established and not. This is what I learned.
- Practicing any art form takes courage. Sharing it with others takes boldness. And submitting your work for sale—for publication, production, or show—takes a whole other level of desire and drive.
- Rejection sucks … get used to it.
- Rejection is part of the game … get used to it.
- ALL writers get rejected … get used to it.
If these 10 writers hadn't got used to it (some 1,500 plus times!) here's some of the work we'd have missed:
- Richard Bach - Jonathan Livingston Seagull rejected more than 145 times.
- J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter rejected by more than 30 publishers.
- Stephen King - Carrie rejected more than 30 times.
- John Creasy - British mystery author’s first novel rejected 774 times (he’s now published more than 550 books!)
- Alex Haley- received 200 rejections before publishing Roots.
- Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen - first ever Chicken Soup for the Soul rejected by 33 publishers.
- Mary Higgins Clark - received 40 rejections before selling first story.
- Dr. Seuss - first book rejected 24 times.
- Louis L’Amour - received 200 rejections before selling first novel.
- Norman Mailer - The Naked and the Dead rejected 12 times.
Last but not least, legend has it that F. Scott Fitzgerald papered his bedroom walls with rejection slips before finally selling his first story.
As for me, it’s now 8 years since I quit the bank and I’m well over the rejection issue. My first book manuscript was rejected by 30 British, 17 Canadian, and 41 US publishers before I got a nibble. Onward and upward!