A Writer’s Guide to Rejection

Several years ago, I used to play street hockey for BTSH in New York City as an offensive player for Fresh Kills. A teammate of mine, Alex, used to tell me that I was such a good offensive player because I was — in one word, tenacious. I was all of five feet tall, but I would take on guys twice my size and physical strength and wouldn’t leave them alone. And I would eventually get the ball or get in their face so much that they passed the puck to another player.

I think of tenacious as a good way to describe myself as a writer and I hope to pass on why tenacity has kept my writing selling. It’s simply because I won’t give up.

My writer friend David Licata is a perfect example of tenacity. He applied to the MacDowell Colony five times. And then he got in. My husband Brendan Hay is a wildly successful TV writer. And he is talented, but most importantly, he doesn’t give up. He’s gotten rejected more times than he’s gotten hired or sold a script. Every writer you know has been rejected more times than they’ve had success.

My first published magazine article was for Bust magazine. I sold it in May 2007. I have steadily been pitching Bust with new stories, and still get turned down three years later. But I really love the magazine and what they publish so I keep pitching them every few months regardless. My young adult novel, Sissy, almost got bought by Delacorte Press back in 2003, then was rejected, then rejected by almost every publishing house in New York City. Here I am, seven years later, with a brand new draft, an agent, and my tenacity fully in check.

Just like my offensive skills in street hockey, I keep on going even in the face of rejection. Who would think a five-foot-tall Asian girl could take on a six-foot-tall male who moves faster than lighting? The odds may seem insurmountable. People may tell you that you’ll never make it. For every contest you enter, there are hundreds of other writers entering. Right now, I’m drafting an essay for Real Simple‘s Life Lessons contest. Last year, they had close to 7,000 entries. This is my third time entering. The odds may seem against me, but I’m going for it.

So what I hope for you is that you keep writing, you keep submitting, you keep applying. Because tenacity is now part of your vocabulary.

10 Comments on “A Writer’s Guide to Rejection

  1. Great post. Tenacity is the best advice you can give any writer. As I was once told: writers are sharks. We can only swim forward. So be a shark!

  2. Yes to tenacity. It’s the only way anyone accomplishes anything. We all know people that from the outside it looks like their talent and success came easily and without rejection, but I can assure you this is not the case.

    To the Yoda-esque “Just Do It” one must add “Just Keep Doing It.”

  3. Jenn, great post! I look at my rejection letters as a sign that the editor at least considered the pitch OK enough to warrant a response, even when the answer is, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Keep the posts coming! I look forward to the next one.

    • Thanks Rita. I used to think of rejection as a reflection of me as as writer. You certainly know that I’ve taken some of those editor rejection letters to heart, but you gotta keep going.

  4. Good to read something indicating my tenacity is more than beating my head against some ivory wall. I just found your blog though Ollin’s; you’ve got some fantastic advice on here, thanks for lending your wisdom to us newbs.
    ~Connor

    • Hi Connor! Thanks for reading my blog. And trust me, every writer goes through this whether you’re new or been writing for years. For every publication that publishes me, there are dozens that have passed. I think the best thing you can do it keep going, no matter what!

  5. Pingback: Tenacity is My Best Friend as a Writer « Typecraft

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