Here’s a writing nugget. My friend Ellen passed it along to me. I may not have the wording exactly right, but someone once told her, “It’s not talent that determines a writer’s success; it’s perseverance.”
To succeed, you must persevere.
J.K. Rowling, Agatha Christie and Hunter S. Thompson received their share of rejection letters. According to Lulu, “Stephen King got so many that he used to nail them on a spike under a timber in his bedroom.”
In the Christian market, Max Lucado received rejections from 14 publishers before On the Anvil was accepted, and Frank Peretti also stuck it out in spite of 14 rejections. Don’t know what’s up with the number 14, but that’s a lot of rejection. It would surely tempt a person to doubt. I can feel like giving up after only the fourth rejection. I can be kind of insecure that way.
But they persevered. Max Lucado is a household name in Christian households, and Frank Peretti has certainly made an impact with his books on the spiritual realm. They have remarkable perseverance to keep working and submitting in light of twelve, then thirteen, and then fourteen rejections. They both had to send it out a 15th time to find a taker.
It’s hard to get rejected so many times that your file folder starts to bulge with all of that negativity, or your paper shredder jams with the sheer number of sheets you’re jamming in.
Perseverance sends you back to the computer chair to keep tapping away, composing a new cover letter, maybe even composing a completely new opening to a new article or reworking a chapter. Perseverance studies submission guidelines and sends off queries. Hope, faith and prayer come in handy, too.
My dad is fond of a Winston Churchill quote that sums it up nicely: Never, never, never give up.
Not in war.
Not in writing.
Is your writing life all it can be?
Let this book act as your personal coach, to explore the writing life you already have and the writing life you wish for, and close the gap between the two.
“A genial marriage of practice and theory. For writers new and seasoned. This book is a winner.”
—Phil Gulley, author of Front Porch Tales
I went to high-school with a kid by the name of Mike – wrestled in the 98-pound weight class. Energetic, QUICK on the mats!
He’d look right at his opponent and say “Nevahhhh!”
I’ve used it ever since.
Great words today! – Thanks!
14 sounds like a fabulous number! In the future, as I strive towards publication, I shall wear each rejection as a badge of courage. Thanks for the inspiration.
Our friend Jim Thom (James Alexander Thom, author of many best-selling Indian-themed books such as “Follow the River”) said once that in his early days of writing he got so many rejection slips he began to think publishers were sending them to him gratutiously–whether he sent them anything or not (“We heard you were mailing out manuscripts and just wanted to say not to send us any”!) He also said that he finally became successful when he “found his voice,” which in his case was the Indian theme, even though he personally is Scotch-Irish.
I don’t know if that helps anyone or not…..
monica - books are our friends says
Amen! I don’t remember the name of the book, but it was rejected over and over again, then it’s author died, and his widow kept submitting it. Finally it was published. And won the Pultizer.
Karen Hossink says
Perseverence is an amazing thing. How much would we be missing if those before us hadn’t persevered? Didn’t Thomas Eddison fail a bunch of times before he invented the light bulb?
But failure and rejection aren’t fun! It would be so much easier if we suceeded and were accepted every time.
Ahhh, but think how perseverence builds our character. (Romans 5:2-3) If we didn’t have to persevere, think how shallow and frail we would be!
Thanks for sharing these thoughts and encouragement.
Perseverance is what creates remarkably strong individuals. It builds character and makes one wise. I think your post applies very well to motherhood, too, and to life in general. Never, never, never give up. A new day will always dawn tomorrow.
Great words to take to heart. Just last week Romans 5 was brought to my attention that perseverance produces character, and here it is again in your post. (coincidence? I think not!) No matter what you are doing in life, or just living life, press on! Next stop: HOPE!
Phil: I can almost hear it: “Nevahhhh!”
corporatedropout: Rejections as a badge of courage–that’s a great thought, that they strengthen us on the way. Thanks.
Lynn/Mom: I’ve heard that joke before about another author, too, on Writer’s Almanac. I almost did a search to see if I could figure out who said it. Thanks for posting Thom’s version in the comments. It’s a funny thought to imagine the publishers trying to head off a writer at the pass (“Please don’t bother us with whatever it is you’re sending out”). I hope they aren’t doing that with me!
monica: Oh, man, your comment inspired a quick search driven by curiosity, but I couldn’t figure out the author or the book. It’s a great story, though.
Karen: Thanks for pointing us to the reference in Romans so we could ponder it–I thought of it as I was writing, but didn’t want to suggest that receiving a rejection letter was at the same level as true suffering (I pout a little when I get one and feel sorry for myself for a little while, but I don’t really *suffer*). Your thoughtful comment broadened the discussion to include other ways to persevere. Good stuff.
anordinarymom and Jenny: Both of you, like Karen, have broadened the discussion to reflect on perseverence developing character and hope (back to Romans 5).
Everyone: In our world of ease-seekers, this is an interesting flow of conversation–I wonder how many people can truly embrace perseverence for the good that it ultimately brings (and because the discussion is now far outside of my original narrow publishing reference, I don’t refer to the ultimate good as a book contract or magazine article acceptance!)? I think people resist suffering and feel unable to stay strong and keep going, especially when perseverence is necessary due to suffering. These are big questions, much bigger than my little writing discussion originally intended.
Speaking honestly, I think of how weak my personality is, and I see how I must always, always lean on God and “remain in Him” because with Him, all things are possible; and apart from Him, I can do nothing. I can only persevere with/in His strength.
Jim may have cribbed his quote!
the post and comments were encouraging to me…it’s not that I’m thinking as a writer really…just ‘ignoring’ an obstinate-tantrum-throwing 2 year old right now. I will persevere. Galatians 6:9 comes to mind too.
Thanks for this. It was very encouraging! :^D
Karen Hossink says
Hey, I just got an e-mail that the article I submitted for MOMsense Magazine was REJECTED! How nice that I’d read this post earlier this week, and could be encouraged about persevering before I got the rejection.
Isn’t God’s timing great?
irrationallove: Did you survive (the tantrum)? I didn’t know that Galatians reference by heart, so I looked it up–good one with the actual phrase, “…if we don’t give up.”
Nan: Glad it was helpful in some way. I need to pay you a visit!
Karen: Oh, phooey. I’m sorry you received a rejection. They take forever to respond, too, *and* I think they’re getting a lot of submissions for a relatively small magazine (and one of the few Christian parenting magazines out there). I don’t know what your plans are for magazine work, but if you have the time and energy, I’ve found that it’s good to have several different submissions sent to various publications along with a few other articles on your computer in various forms of research and revision, preparing to send out. Then everything doesn’t hang on one depressing response. That way I can pout about a rejection, eat a brownie, decide if I’m going to frame or shred the rejection letter (I usually stick it in a file), then get back to work and wonder what the next response will be. It helps me keep going to have more in the works.
Persevere! You’ve got an important message. It’s just a matter of finding the right fit and the right timing.