the kinetic pen

wired by words

Dealing With Rejection


Yesterday my manuscript received its first rejection. I found out moments after being fitted for a helmet for a horseback trail ride with my eight-year-old daughter. I’d pulled my iPhone from my pocket to make sure the camera was ready to go, and decided to check my email given that I’d followed up with the agent a few hours earlier.

I read his words – that I’m a “terrific writer” but the story sounded a bit too familiar and he wasn’t convinced he could get a major publisher on board, that he hoped other agents would feel differently, and that he wished me the very best of luck – and had to accept he wasn’t going to be the agent to represent me.

An agent I desperately wanted to represent me.

The wacky part is that I was okay. Even after five years of working on this manuscript, and after all the serendipitous moments that led up to and continued through the writing, I had come to a place where I have to believe that publication will happen, and will happen in a glorious way I simply can’t visualize yet.

I’m not sure whether I’ve got it all together or am delusional. As my mom says, “Time will tell.” But I do know that I couldn’t have been in a better place to receive the disappointing news. My horse’s name was Carl, and for an hour holding his reins through leafy parkland and overgrown fields filled with wildflowers, I concentrated on the sounds around us: the creak of my saddle, the croak of the frogs, the swish of horse tails. I stared at my daughter’s back in front of me. I closed my eyes and meditated (only for a few moments at a time; I was nearly ejected within the first ten minutes of the ride when Carl tripped and hadn’t been the steadiest in my seat since).

Beauty in it all.

I feel blessed to have a manuscript I believe in, that my beta readers believe in. Time to move forward on this project and start the next one.

I do wonder why I’m not allowing myself a pity party. Maybe because that would put my focus on the rejection and not on what needs to happen next to get this thing published. Who knows? Maybe I’ll feel differently at a highly inopportune time and fall to pieces while pumping gas or on my way to interview a client.

For now, I continue to see that there’s more to finding the right fit for my manuscript – to life, in fact – than we’re often able to predict. This morning, for instance, another happy accident. In the few moments I had to glance at Twitter, I clicked on only one link, which led to a blog by London author Jessica Thompson. Her perspective lost after learning some major retailers wouldn’t be stocking her third novel because sales of her second weren’t as good as her first, she found comfort in words from her dad, which I’m sharing here because they’re poignant and altogether true:

“I’m an old man now, but every night I sit in my garden and think, another day, how nice. Another day with my family in my life, and my dog, and that’s really how you have to start seeing things Jess…Readjust your viewpoint on the world, you’ve not failed. Life is a relay race, and every step ahead leads you on to the next level. Nothing is wasted, and everything you do that takes you forward is positive. So what, you’ll probably never be famous, and so what, you’ll probably never be a millionaire, but you’ve done so incredibly well, no one can take that away from you, and the fact that you are a wonderful writer.”

This is what we writers need to trust: that we have succeeded because we are doing what we love to do. Because of this project I have developed close friendships, experimented with a more creative writing style, and received validation from a professional I greatly respect.

How can I be sad about that?

If you’re up for sharing your rejection story (and aftermath), I’m all ears. What we have in common makes us stronger…

Author: thekineticpen

Freelance journalist working on a narrative nonfiction book about a woman who, after the freak death of her husband, decides to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro to deal with her grief and finds a second chance at love.

14 thoughts on “Dealing With Rejection

  1. So, you got your 1st rejection. It’s like learning to ride a bike. Very rarely does a person keep their balance and stay on the bike the first time. Expect falling off maybe a few or more times but remember, you are a great writer and someone will see the worth of the book. Love you. Dad

  2. Thanks, Dad! But expect a few more?
    I appreciate the support. Big hug.

  3. Beautiful – you and your way with words, your insight and openness to life. I will re-read this many times when I receive my first rejection. Love you too! Sue

  4. I think you have the right attitude. The best attitude. You don’t want an agent who doesn’t think he can represent your book. From the feedback you got it seems like he’s saying he believes in your project but not in himself for your project. That’s a good sign 🙂

  5. I’ve been trying to get a few short stories published in online magazines and I had three rejection letters in four days. But you just got to keep on trying. 🙂

    • Oh boy, that’s a lot to handle in a short time. Every time I hear something like that, I think, “Wow, good for that person for putting stuff out there,” so I suppose I should feel the same way about myself, eh? Keep on sending your stuff out. Much luck and let me know when you get the YES!

  6. I want to post this all over the world for all writers to see. It’s what I try to get across to my clients. This is not a race, it’s a journey. A hero’s journey. Every step teaches something that needs to be learned, that leads to the next.

    • I learned so much on this step, that much is very true. Thank you, Nina. (And yes, post away!) I hope this helps some of your clients…and I know you will be there when that next step is taken!

  7. My good friend (smart, great writer) has taken to wallpapering her office with her rejection letters. It’s quite pretty. 😉

    Fabulous post you have here. I know it’s a snapshot and, like you said, it might hit you later but it might not. You were surrounded by something bigger, something beautiful. That’s some amazing timing. And an amazing attitude.

    (Although, forgive me, I must ask… Is this your narrative nonfiction book? Because I have to say that it’s, um…unbelievable that it would sound “familiar” to anyone.)

    • I had a rejection wall in my 20s (when I lived in a cemetery, but that’s another story…). You made me smile so deeply with your comment. Yes, you are indeed thinking of the right book. Like the agent said, hopefully others won’t feel the same way he did. I’m banking on it – literally! Take great care, and thanks again.

  8. Great post. It’s not just writers either. I’m a sculptor. Two years ago I put all my hopes into getting some work into a significant Sculpture park in New Zealand. It was my best work ever, all my peers said so. I was already battling through depression and rejection in other spheres of my life. I seriously needed this to go right and to be accepted. I wasn’t. I got a very short rejection note without any real reasons why, just my work wasn’t going to be shown. At the time I was devastated. It only served to validate all my own insecurities and lack of self belief. Oddly though, somewhere in the deepest recesses of my mind a tiny voice kept on chirping, ‘everything happens for a reason’.

    And so it did. I left New Zealand, returned to my home in the UK, back to the love and support of my family. I met people who believed in me and my work. I started volunteering at a local museum and demonstrating what I do. Praise has come in thick and fast for what I do, and then an invitation. The best kind. An exhibition of my work at one of the UK’s most beautiful country estates on the occasion of Capability Brown’s tercentenary. It will place my work in the kind of environment to which it is best suited. It will be a huge challenge and a great honour. And most importantly it proves what the tiny voice was telling me. Everything happens for a reason.

    As I read recently, for an arrow to be propelled forward, it must first be pulled back a little way.

    • You are so right. This likely applies to artists of every sort. Thank you for sharing your story – and congratulations on your success! I love the image you end with, of the arrow. So true! Much luck to you.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s