Authors have to put up with rejection. It comes with the territory. When I started writing, I sold my first story on my112th submission, meaning I received 111 rejections. This is nothing. Famous western author Louis L’Amour received over 350 rejections for over 200 stories before selling his first story.
I’ve learned that I have four choices when dealing with rejection or other adversity:
- Change my attitude
- Change the situation
- Get out (give up)
As I writer I chose not to pursue alternative four—I wasn’t going to give up. Perseverance is key to success. And after brief moments of number three, suffering, I decided I didn’t want to wallow in misery. This left a combination of options one and two. As Victor Frankel says in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, the one thing no one can take away from us is our ability to control our own attitude. This supports perseverance.
The Stockdale Paradox states, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end—which you can never afford to lose—with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.” Admiral John Stockdale came to this conclusion as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Although rejection as writers isn’t in the same category as being a prisoner of war (it might feel like it at times), the lesson is equally appropriate. We have to do everything possible to succeed (keep writing no matter what) but have to also be realistic about the difficulty of our situation.
At a conference I attended in September, one literary agency stated they had received 37,000 queries in one year and out of this signed seven writers. That’s less than .02%, not good odds. We have to be realistic that writing and getting published is not easy.
So with a combination of changing my attitude and changing the situation by continuing to write and learn from feedback, I now have four published novels with two more under contract.
I’ve heard it stated that you need to write a million words to refine your craft. I’ve written over a million words, and I’m still learning. And I keep writing more words. As Nora Roberts stated, “You can’t edit a blank page.”
So why is rejection not a four letter word? Because we can learn from it, move on, persevere, and improve. It’s a badge that we’re on our path in our chosen area of expertise. And what keeps me going are the emails I receive from readers, such as this one: “I have read your books and enjoyed them immensely, but even more fun was listening to my husband read them. He snorted, chuckled and guffawed his way through them. And the idea of geezer lit tickled the bejabbers out of him.”
I may not be the best writer in the world, but I can put together a story that entertains and makes people laugh.