I gasp for breath as the room swirls out of focus. Voices around me become muffled. My heart beats wildly as my knees start to buckle. Pain sears through me, piercing my soul. Would I survive? Did I even want to?
As a writer, I know rejection is part of the process. I also know—at least in theory—that I’m in good company.
- Elvis Presley’s music teacher told him he had no aptitude for singing. When he auditioned to be a vocalist in a band, they advised him to stick with truck driving.
- Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lacking creativity. Three hundred bankers rejected the idea of Mickey Mouse because the idea was absurd.
- Twelve prominent publishers rejected Harry Potter before J.K. Rowling found a small publishing house willing to publish it.
Rejections come in various colors, from polite encouragement to unsympathetic brashness. They’re delivered in person, over the phone, by mail, or email. They come from people you respect, thought you knew, or want to get to know.
The devastating message is the same: You’re not good enough. Like the drone of an engine that vibrates in your ear, it’s impossible to hear the whispers of encouragement that once sustained you.
As a writer, I want to be successful. But what does success look like for me? A book signing? New York’s Best Seller list? Mega sales? Speaking engagements? Thousands of followers?
Realizing that my success simply means fulfilling a God-given desire to share my story brings me clarity and comfort. God is alive and active in my life, and I want my readers to discover God at work in their lives too, so I reveal my struggles, inner conflicts, and never-before-told failures. I write of the joy God pours into my tattered heart. It speaks of truth, hope, and love. It’s inspiring.
It’s rejected. What?!
I thought I had prepared myself for rejection. They might not like it, but it’ll be a learning experience.
“Don’t be proud,” I caution myself with James 4:10. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up” (NIV).
Nevertheless, the first rejection takes me by surprise. Those that follow destroy what confidence remains. I’m devastated. Even worse, I’m convinced God regrets entrusting me with His vision. I’m not good enough.
Sharing from vulnerable places bleeds my soul onto the page. It’s the beginner’s curse: my story becomes who I am instead of the words I write.
Shame tells me that the gatekeepers aren’t rejecting my story—they’re rejecting me.
Dealing with Discouragement
I lick my wounds in the sanctuary of the lowest of lows. I’m discouraged and embarrassed. I shouldn’t have tried. Within this sanctuary, three verses pursue me day and night. They appear in memes on social media. They resound on the radio and weasel their way into my reading. Even weekend messages at church endorse them.
- “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20 (NIV)
- “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
- “You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)
I cling to self-pity and swat the verses like pesky mosquitoes, but they assault me from every direction.
Finally, sweet surrender to the truth of God’s goodness overwhelms me. I let the healing balm soothe my soul, calm my fears, and fill me with the courage to try again.
I resolve to hone my craft and write my story.
It’s hard and even painful. Self-editing is like taking a machete to the clay pot you’ve labored over for months and hacking it to pieces. The mess on the workroom floor is atrocious and screams of injustice.
Yet, the remnant on my screen is tighter, stronger, and more transparent.
The machete continues swinging. There’s so much I didn’t know. I reach into my pockets to fund classes on writing and self-publishing.
I invest the lint from my pockets to hire an editor who agrees to tutor me as she edits my manuscript.
I invest in a designer to help with the cover and interior.
Whenever doubt trickles into my thoughts, God reminds me, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I did that. I started this work in you. And I will bring it to completion. My power is at work in you. I am able to do immeasurably more than anything you could ask or imagine.” Remember 2 Corinthians 3:3: “I inscribed My message on your heart before your fingers touched the keyboard.”
It costs more time and funds than I thought were available. Yet, holding my book in my hands, I stand in awe:
- Not because my name is on the cover.
- Not because of anything I have done.
- I stand in awe because God did what He promised. His presence radiates from the pages, masterfully declaring His awesomeness.
My manuscript was rejected. What a gift!
My first draft fell short of the glory God deserves. I shudder to think if that raw, awkward, unprofessional attempt had been published. Thankfully, God took it and wrapped it in a cocoon of learning. He developed in me the necessary skills and discipline to improve.
Today His story is beautifully scripted on each page of “my” book; not because I possessed the skills needed, but because God’s grace drew me back and awakened my desire to complete the work He began.
Since rejection is an inevitable part of the writing life, rather than interpreting it as disqualification, let’s use it to grow as we take the next step on this glorious journey.
Can you see rejection as a gift? I pray you commit to keep writing because I and so many others want to read your story.
Question: Have you ever gone through the experience of having an article or a book proposal rejected? If so, what did you learn in the process? I look forward to reading your comments.
About Marie Palecek
Marie T. Palecek is an author and speaker who inspires her readers and audience to listen for God’s voice every day through the joys, challenges, and mundane events that make up life. Her first book, Listen for His Voice, is a collection of creative Scripture-inspired devotions. Visit www.marietpalecek.com for a sneak peek inside. Marie lives in Minnesota, with her husband, John, and grown son.