The art of accepting rejection

Posted on January 2, 2012


If you are going through hell, keep going.
– Winston Churchill

Life is hard for a writer. Granted, life is hard for everyone else too. But, for a writer, rejection becomes part of your character. Every time I get a rejection note, I try to keep things like this in mind:

  • 50 years ago, The Beatles auditioned at Decca Records and were turned down.
  • C.S. Lewis received over 800 rejections before he ever sold a piece of writing.
  • An editor once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.”
  • J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses — they all rejected it.

There was a time this summer when I really thought myself a moron for pursuing an English degree, especially with a focus in creative writing. I thought, “Tab, you have kids to support. There’s no way you’re going to get a job writing in this economy.” The only writing job I seriously applied for was the one I have now. Every other job was doing something like managing a restaurant or being someone’s administrative assistant. I filled out 250 applications and had ten different resumes on my laptop. And every day things just looked more and more bleak. Summer 2011 was pretty dreary for me.

Aside: I know there are millions of people who are in worse job hunting situations than I was this summer. I’m not whining…I’m just telling a story.

I even played around with the idea of going back to college for another BA in something. I was ready to give up, ready to call it a day and go to Wal-Mart to be a cashier. I even set a date for myself. Money was running out in my savings, and I said to myself, “Self…you will start filling out applications for retail and fast food jobs if you don’t get any calls by Sept. 1.”

Sept. 1 came, and I was really down. Then, as I was sitting in front of my daughter’s school, the phone rang. It was the man who is now my editor. He said, “Tabitha, are you still interested in that reporting job?” (or something like that) to which I said, “Yep…I’m broke.”  And that was almost 4 months ago.

Even after working for two years for the campus newspaper, I never thought I would end up here. I mean, I love journalism. I read the paper every day. I even made my sisters play “reporter” with me when we were younger…running around the neighborhood and getting story ideas so we could get the paper together.

I guess, what I’m saying is…everyone has had a time when they want to pack it in. I’m glad I gave myself one more day. Not to mention, all that rejection just made me stronger in the end. I know, it’s cliche. Everyone says that. It’s true though…otherwise it wouldn’t be a cliche. I’m starting to learn that rejection is something journalists have to face every day. I’m glad I got the practice.

Through all of it, I’m glad that giving up was never really an option for me. I’ve always known that I was going to write. I just wasn’t sure what I was going to write.

When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt