Rejections I Have Loved

Are You A Reject? If You’re a Writer, the Answer is Often Yes.

When I was 16 I was invited to a “dated” Sweet 16 party so I had to invite a boy to accompany me.  I mustered up my courage and approached Louie, a guy I hardly knew but thought he was a cute gymnast.

“Do you want to go with me to Franny’s Sweet 16?”


And he walked away. Talk about your man of few words!

My first rejection. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because I had told all of my friends I was going to ask him. But, it also fired me up and helped move me from “Ouch” to “Who is he to reject me? I’m cool, smart, friendly, funny…” I comforted myself by listing all of my good qualities. I left out the acne-ridden face as there wasn’t much I could do about that. Ultimately my first rejection made me stronger.

Fast forward a few years to college. I am seriously crushing on a guy so I hang around his apartment waiting to be noticed until I finally tell him I’m interested, at which point he tells me he’s not. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because his roommates couldn’t help but see exactly what I was up to. I would have comforted myself by convincing me I was too good for him but I didn’t have time because his roommate quickly expressed an interest in me. We have been married for 42 years. Ultimately that rejection made me happier. (Note: We are all still friends and I am always grateful for that rejection. That guy made the right choice.)

Fast forward to my corporate career. I had been a teacher and moved to a job at a newspaper running their education department. I interacted with other publisher types selling educational materials. One of them — Ed, a vice president of a large educational publishing company — approached me about a new job: teacher trainer. I would teach teachers how to use their new reading program. Dream job! I loved teaching and believed in their program’s innovative approach, my schedule would be flexible, and I’d make a lot more money. I interviewed and Ed assured me I was a shoo-in but they didn’t hire me. A peer of Ed’s had also presented a candidate and that peer had more clout so I was rejected. Ouch. Painful and embarrassing because I had told my current boss I was considering leaving. Ultimately, that rejection made me wiser by forcing me to focus on the kind of career I wanted and motivated me to start my own educational publishing company which we ran successfully for the next 15 years and also launched my writing career.

If you are a writer, you are also likely a reject. I’ve outlined these three incidents of demoralization but there have been many more. Lately they come in the form of being ignored by agents, by publishing houses, by online webzines, etc. as I send my work out there. Rejections have changed in the digital age. They now come in one of three types. The first is silence. You send something to them and are deafened by the silence of no response. The second is the form letter warning you about the coming silence. It goes something like this:

Dear Author,

Thank you for your email. Because of the high volume of queries we receive, we are unable to respond to every query.
If we are interested in your work, we will certainly follow up by email or phone. However, if you haven’t heard from us within 6 to 8 weeks, please assume that we are passing on your project. 

The third rejection type is what’s known as a kinder, gentler telling you to get lost. It’s one that at least indicates they’ve taken a good look at your work:

Dear Debby,

I did receive this, and although I think your idea is charming, I’m afraid it’s not something I’d like to pursue. I wish you all the best with this project, and appreciate the opportunity to consider it. Very best wishes, Agent who thinks you’re a loser

Take your rejections lightly. Look for the ways in which you can make anything good come out of them. Keep writing, keep submitting, and keep convincing yourself it’s not you, it’s them. There’s no way to success except through failure.

Oh, and one more thing, if you haven’t yet subscribed to my blog, please do so on the right. If you reject me, though, I will conclude it’s you, not me. Thanks!

Note: This post was inspired by this very entertaining blogger’s post. Enjoy.


30 Responses to “Rejections I Have Loved

  • LOVE your story about college rejection Deb! You go girl! All of my freelancing rejections convinced me that I didn’t want to write for some stupid editor, when I could just write for myself as a blogger and then author…and look how that worked out!

    • Exactly! Sometimes we end up on the right path via an annoyingly circuitous route! Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s nice to know you can relate!

  • …I’ve always lived by the philosophy to follow my bliss …It has been a good way to focus on finding out who I really am ( not who others expect me to be ) and to revel in the joy of being me…for no matter what anyone says , we are all unique , no one who ever was or will be, can be …me…needless to say, applying for work where I “fit” the job description was almost impossible…therefore in order to earn a living , I’ve had to convince perspective employers that, being me , as in , my unique skill set , will somehow benefit whatever they had going…you can only imagine how many times I’ve been rejected by those, puzzled by my non applicable, application or responding to my much too eclectic resume with the words…not the “right fit”…but I haven’t allowed that to dissuade me and eventually found that some people enjoy having someone like me around and pay me quite well for it…it makes me feel really good about who I am and helped me understand that its better to find comfort , peace and sanity in being myself , than trying to “fit in” to a world that often feels uncomfortable , violent and insane…

    • I remember once interviewing for a first teaching job in Philly. “How would you physically set up your room? What would it look like?” I knew the “correct” answer was that I’d have kids in rows facing the teacher/blackboard. But not understanding I had to play their game I said,”I’m planning to have learning centers around the room — a library, a clay station, a block center, a math center with manipulative materials, a listening center with music, and a meeting corner where we will gather for a morning circle to start each day.” I’m pretty sure I lost them at “clay station” and sealed the deal with “morning circle.” They said I had failed the test and could not teach anywhere in the city. I was beyond devastated. Ultimately I did teach in the city, via an alternative program and set up my room just as I described. Would I give the same answer today, knowing how the game is played? Yeah, I probably would. Fitting in isn’t always a good fit, you are so right.

  • Being told no only makes me stronger as a person also. Your college rejection story sounds like that ending up being the best story ever written. Congrats on 42 years!

    • I know about the whole “what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger” thing but I think they just say that so we think something good will come out of every pain. Not true, my friend! But, you’re right about my college rejection being the best story ever written. It wasn’t always pretty making it to 42 years and I know that’s currently a poignant topic in your life (although you are seriously rocking the single dad job!) but, yeah, that rejection was one of the better ones. The first boy I ever asked out rejecting me without even saying more than one word? Still kind of stings! Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving this comment.

  • I’ve been writing long enough to be used to rejections. Silence, though, drives me nuts.

    • You know what? That silence is just rude! Thanks for taking the time not to be silent here. 🙂

  • Hello Deborah, I appreciate your courage to write on the topic’rejection’. We usually try to avoid this topic because it makes us feel ashamed. But,the way, you have said to accept the rejection, is the best way I think. Very nice and helpful post.

  • Thank you for sharing all your OUCH stories. They’re great! And my favorite line: “There’s no way to success except through failure.” So true!

    • I’ve experienced more failure than I might have liked but overall it generally ends well. And, the ability to look back and laugh helps.

  • …I knew that gymnast…he wasn’t worth the angst…

  • …those were awkward years …I thought that you and your girlfriends were pretty cute , too…cute then , beautiful now , I suspect…

    • I tell people all the time how much I loved high school on some levels, none of which were academic. Oh god they were awkward years too but I really enjoyed the camaraderie and bits of innocence we maintained during those years on the cusp of the massive social and cultural changes to come. I can recall freewheeling times outside of school just kind of driving around with friends, going nowhere, listening to music and simply being who we were in the company of people we didn’t have to impress. At school I felt pretty much the same, kind of like being in a cocoon of comfort with little pressure to be anyone other than me. Do I long for a return to those days? Absolutely not. But I am so grateful I can remember them with love and only the occasional cringe. Oh and thanks for the sweet words about me and my friends.

  • No rejection from me. I like it here! 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing this post at my party! As a writer, I can definitely relate. I’ve had more than my share of rejections, and they never get easier. But I’ve learned that you should never let a rejection stop you from writing if that’s what you love to do most. They’re only opinions, after all, and shouldn’t be taken that personally. But I think we writers tend to be a sensitive lot.

    • We are and many of us wound way too easily! Glad your party went better this time around.

  • Rejection is tough. I am trying to get better at handling it. Reading your blog post helps me see that it can lead to success. I guess you never really appreciate success without rejection. Plus, infinite success makes one a dull story teller! Thank you for an inspiring post!

    • Thank you so much for this reaction. I love the ability to inspire and you’re right, too much success would make us boring. Or at least that’s what we can keep telling ourselves!

  • Hi Deborah,
    I had rejection on my blog when people unsubscribed because they thought my post was too “hard sell”. It felt like a rejecton–disappointing although I realize I can’t please all of the people all of the time.

    • You know, Janice, I am a bit surprised at that. I think your blog is excellent and helpful to writers. It’s been a terrific resource for me. I see you’re selling, but I respect that and think you give as much away as you sell if not more. You also give by commenting on other blogs as you did here and that should also be appreciated. If they unsubscribed, I think they rejected something that could have been useful. So, you know what? It’s not you, it’s them.

  • Love your honesty here Deb. And good to see you’re wearing your ‘big girl’ pants too. We still have our books and our blogs, so there’s much to be grateful for and eventually it becomes our turn in other things. 🙂

    • Yup. We women have learned to push through a lot of crap, haven’t we? And, much like you my gratitude (most days) is greater than my disgruntledness.

  • I loved this post. I have had more rejection than I care to admit..from men to jobs to writing children books…but it has made me who I am today…and I’m pretty sure you have gotten stronger from all of yours as well. We women can not be held under for too long, we must come up for air and when we do…watch out!

    • Watch out indeed. A woman who has learned from her experiences is a force to be reckoned with for sure. Thanks so much for the comment!

  • Thanks! Glad I could give you a laugh!

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