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.