The Rejectionists

I really envy some writers.  Not for their talent with words.  Not for their knack at coming up with great, fresh ideas for a story.  Not for their ability to make me laugh, cry or think about something in a way I’ve never done before.  For all those things, whether published or not, it’s not about that, that I view them the way I do.

I envy their rejections.  I look at them like seasoned subject matter experts on dealing with big letdowns.  Time and time again.  The ones who know how hard it is to wait.  But, wait they do.  The ones whose hopes fly as high as if their fiftieth, or one hundredth query was their very first.  The ones who realize the odds and keep going.  The one’s who’ve been at it for years, whose feelings are sheathed with a bit of cynicism, but not so much as to make them act like jackasses.  They continue to live on hope, just like a brand new writer.

They cloak any insecurities with a new layer of creativity.  A fresh coat of paint can change the look of a room, over and over, can’t it?  Sure, they are still the same writer, only they’ve adapted.  They’ve learned that maybe that hot pink room would be more suited to a subtle shade of blue.  Or green.  Their experience has taught them how to perhaps even stick to their choice, except maybe they add an accent wall of a paler color.  Their buckets of paint seem bottomless.

Why would I envy this when it sounds like no matter what paint color one chooses, it’s always out of style?  When it would appear there is a secret pallet of colors only some get to see? Who wants to go through that?  Many of us it seems, but for those who’ve been at it for a while, they’ve somehow learned to try and keep finding the right blend, even if they’ve been told they’re color blind.

I call them The Rejectionists, although the actual definition in the Oxford dictionary doesn’t suit what I mean – not one iota.  It says, in part, “a person who rejects a proposed policy…,” but goes on to a further political view, which I will leave off here.  I think it’s clear what I mean by some of what I’ve said above.  A Rejectionist, to me, is someone who refuses to give up just because they’ve received polite refusals, with maybe a line of two of encouragement, or all those “no thanks, not for me,” or silence, time and time again.

I envy this because they’ve already been where I’ve yet to go.  Coped with it.  Dealt with it.  Built up stamina, honed a rock hard ability to stomach it.  It’s not to say I can’t do the same.  I know I’m stubborn (marathon training isn’t for the weak)  It’s more about that experience I think.  The mindset, and wherewithal to know it can get even rougher than where I’ve already been. Not counting the years of off and on writing, I’ve been working towards actual publication for about three years now.

Maybe that, in of itself, makes me one.  I don’t know.  I don’t think I’ve felt the burn of it long enough.  Not like others.  Not the ones I’m thinking of, have come to know, or the ones I’ve only read about.  They are the true examples of what it means to work for art, or as it goes in this writing world, “art harder.”  That they do.

Would you call yourself a Rejectionist?



Well, I haven’t started my cycle of agent rejections yet, but I’ve become fairly inured to it so far as short stories go. I received a particularly nice and even detailed rejection for a short today, which made me smile even though it was, ultimately, “no”. Not even a “revise and resubmit” (do they do that with shorts? no idea).

I feel like it will be another thing to get accustomed to and grow a thick skin to when the agent rejections start to come in. A short story (many short stories) is one thing; a novel is another level of commitment and investment.


    It is a whole other level, no doubt. All one can think about are the years it took. And the years it will take to do another, and another after.

    I’ve heard others talk about “good” rejections. Sounds like that was the sort of one you received for the short. And on the accustomed to and growing a thick skin for the agent rejections, this is exactly what I mean when I tag those who’ve tallied them up as Rejectionists. They are accustomed to it as part of the process. I do realize a few wins in there (encouraging rejections) are needed to sustain the drive, and desire.


I’m not sure whether I fit the term or not, because rejection to me has always been just a part of the process. It’s rare I’ve really felt one very personally. Indeed, the most personal interactions are the BEST ones, even though yes, so far, they’ve led to rejection. But the folks who’ve taken a moment to look – and even take second looks – have been excellent agents, also generous with their time and feedback.

While I was writing “The Ax and the Vase” I was learning HOW to write it. And also learning how to be an author – the professional – as opposed to just a writer. It’s taken a decade to get the thing right, and I queried too soon of course (made ALL the mistakes), so I’ve collected rejections aplenty, but learned from many of them. I’ve been even relieved by a couple of them – agents I saw quickly I wouldn’t want to work with and so was glad to have ticked off my list.

Now is the time, though. Ax has to go, and I need to be working on the kinda-sequel-sorta-thingy. I need the success, to feed the success!


    Right, rejection is definitely part of any writer’s process, and what I’m saying by giving those who’ve experienced it often, and for years a formal name, is really only recognition they’ve been in it for the long haul, and aren’t about to give up. The gist of the post is about the refusal to quit.

    Ten years to write and gathering rejections sounds like a fit, but that’s just my perception. 🙂


I ‘felt’ this. When someone says they want to be a writer, I often think they have little idea about the nature of the journey the are embarking on. some people make it to Shangri La, and I suppose the thought of that place keeps the rest of us going as we blunder around on the mountain, knee deep in snow and freezing from rejection letter and lack of interest. I always tell myself, the only way to guarantee failure is to give up, and I’m not going to give it that satisfaction, so I shall just carry on blundering around and hoping for the best

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    Peter, that says it well. The analogy about blundering around on a mountain…

    And there’s the old saying too. “You can’t win if you don’t play.”

    So. Play we must, right?


Yep, I qualify as a Rejectionist by your definition. Mostly for short stories, but I also have scores and scores of rejections for my novels.

The danger lies in growing too accustomed to rejection, to assuming it’s the norm, the expected, even the inevitable. When that happens, it’s easy to stop trying. I’m not sure where I am on that continuum.


    Years ago when I was trying to get pregnant, I couldn’t. I tried everything. I mean EVERY thing. Basal temperature readings. Ahem, heels up on the wall for thirty mins after… (insert blush) It just wouldn’t happen.

    I quit thinking about it so much, stopped the temperature thing, definitely stopped the contortionist routine, and just lived my life. Next thing I knew, months later it happened. I sometimes wonder if that’s the way it will be in this world too, if I stop being so aware and just try to write the best I can. Much much like that pregnancy, when I least expect it…, BAM.

    And by all that, I think what I”m getting at is about taking the focus off the rejections, like I took the focus away from what I could call my body’s rejection each month.


Oh Donna, you made me cry this morning. It’s such a long journey isn’t it.
It’s the view from my window, as I make this writing trek across the decades, that counts. The destination, who knows if it even exists. Right now I’m in it for the scenery. The view is more awesome than not.

My dear, your words today are the best I’ve read in a long time. You nailed it.


    YOU were many of the ones I thought of as I wrote this. You, Paul, Tetman, and so many others I’ve “met” virtually. There are more Rejectionists than there are published. That’s for sure. It makes for some interesting experiences to share.

    Keep going, because to me, no matter what, a writer’s voice should never be silenced by a “no.” It’s like I read the other day, can’t recall which blog it was…had to be either Chuck Wendig’s, WITS, or one of the regular ones I visit, but I came up with a hashtag for it. It was about “all it takes is one good yes.” The hashtag? #onegoodyes



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