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Monday, 30 April 2012

Dealing With The Big ‘R’: Rejection and Embracing the Process

Got a rejection at the end of last week by the agent whom I wrote about in my ‘Tired, Tired, Tired’ post.  At least it didn’t come on a day when I was super tired, so even though I was disappointed (very), I could reason that it was all for the best (sort of) and move on to thinking about the crushes I have on a couple other agents.  It’s the dating thing again, I’m looking for The One.

I was thinking back to an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show.  I'll admit, I love Oprah.  (It’s too bad the show has gone off the air, although probably for the best because otherwise I’d find myself scheduling my day around it.  But, I did fantasize about having my book in The Oprah Book Club, what writer hasn’t?)  Anyway, one guest on the Oprah show was the woman who invented Spanx, the shaping hosiery company.  She is a super successful businesswoman, but she said that came after many, many failures.  Oprah asked her how her family contributed to her success and she told a story about her father.  Every day, at the dinner table, he would ask each member of the family what they failed at that day.  And each member had to talk about a failure, what they learned from it and how they dealt with the set back.  Her father thought the true measure of character was how someone dealt with failure rather than success.  I love that.  It’s something I want to instill in my children, too, but first I have to get the hang of it.  Dealing with set backs is a huge part of life and embracing the process and the journey is what we’re supposed to focus on, instead of the result, because the end result is about 1% of a 99% journey.  (I came up with those percentages after working out a very long mathematical formula in the early hours of the morning.)

I’d love to embrace the process more, but it’s hard when days fill up with endless grocery runs, repetitive tasks, the demands of small, helpless children, and those rejection emails in the Inbox.  I’m working on it, though.  The process, I tell myself, must be embraced! (As I stand in line at Tesco for the millionth time buying the seventh bottle of milk in the last couple days---why don’t I buy in bulk, you ask?  Good question).  Maybe part of embracing the process was me buying a giant wheelie carrier for my groceries, the kind the little old ladies use.  I bought one at IKEA with big polka dots on it because my frequent grocery trips with arms loaded with plastic bags make me grumpy. 

I’m lucky, so lucky, that my kids and husband are healthy, that I’m healthy, and I can write when I grab free time while also being there with my babies.  Maybe realizing that while celebrating the other failures is embracing the process.  I’m not sure, but if you’ve figured it out, let me know.

How do you deal with failure?  And how do you embrace the writing process and the journey seeking publication?  A schedule?  A room?  Small milestones?


  1. It is somewhat different than a book rejection but I used to get really deflated when an editor rejected my features etc. But I soon realised it only happened if I had written them. The "no thanks" given to unwritten (that is ideas/outlines) pitches I barely registered. Instead I went to the next publication on my list. So I think it is hard with a novel because so much work has been poured into it, and very hard not to take it personally. AT LEAST it is out there... keep trying. x

  2. Failure is part of success - if there was no risk involved, it wouldn't be worth doing. Getting that contract is a prize. It will happen - but only to those who persevere. I sometimes think failure is an unhelpful word, because it sounds so final. As if that's it, your writing days are over. Rejections are not failure, they're just part of the risky path towards your final goal. All creative artists take risks, and experience 'failure'. Creativity is a process, but all we see these days are the finished 'successful' end products. This obscures the struggle and makes it all seem so effortless. What rot! Courage, as the French say, you'll get there! Ruth

  3. i drive by a church on 51st street every day; it has a little portable marquee out front which for a long time had this one word on it: persevere. i was having some frustrations at the time and it was amazing how comforting it was to just see that word facing my down as i drove by, day after day. i still visualize it when i need it.


  4. Failure has freed me up to dream bigger and try harder. If the worst thing I can get is a no, things really aren't so bad. I keep telling myself rejections always sting, but there's always more opportunity.