Last week I was listening to a man talk about rejection. His name is Jia Jiang. He has a blog where he documents putting himself through what he calls 100 days of rejection therapy to try to inoculate himself against the pain and disappointment of rejection. As part of his talk, he told us J.K. Rowling was rejected by all 14 publishers she submitted her first Harry Potter manuscript to. All 14! He explained the only reason she got picked up was because one of the publisher’s grandkids started reading the manuscript and couldn’t put it down.
His point: rejection happens to everyone. Don’t fear it. Expect it. Don’t take it personally. “Rejection is really nothing more than peoples’ preferences and opinions and yet we take them as some sort of personal indictment,” Jia told us.
And of course he’s right.
Until it happens to you. And then all of the truth and nice sayings disappear under the soul-crushing disappointment.
If you didn’t already know it, I’m nearing the final stages of a years-long process of writing a book.
I wrote a book of fiction because I believe in story, and because the market is already saturated with evangelical non-fiction work. I wrote a book because I was fed up with preachy and unimaginative Christian art. I wrote a book as a tribute to my best friend, who was murdered at age 18. I wrote a book to help people going through devastating loss. I wrote a book that poses the question, “what if you could get rid of your most painful memory?”
It’s a story. And I believe in it. I believe it has the chance to help people in the way only story can.
Part of this process requires asking for help. I have hundreds of amazing people in my life who care about me and believe in me. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for every single one of them. Unfortunately, none of them are literary agents.
So I’m in need of help.
Recently, I asked a well-known writer and blogger, whom I helped several years ago when he was releasing his first book, to use his considerable knowledge and influence to help me.
He graciously and politely declined, offering some positive feedback and encouragement in the process.
I expected this result, absolutely knew it was coming.
I thought I was prepared for it.
And yet it crushed me. Kind of like this:
Even though he told me he had read a couple of chapters and felt my writing was strong, and despite the fact that earlier in the day I had received an encouraging email from my father about my writing that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life, I stood in the shower and fought to hold back tears. Rejection was all I could see.
I managed to make it through the shower without falling apart. Then I got out and made the following mental list…
People who are the worst at handling rejection, all time:
2b. Marty McFly
2a. George McFly
I’m terrible at it. Doesn’t matter how many positive comments and feedback I get. Doesn’t matter how many people express their belief in me. Doesn’t matter that it’s not rational or that my conclusions about the rejection are not remotely based in reality. I’ll hold onto the rejection and believe what I think it’s saying about me.
I bet I’m not the only one who does this. I bet there are many others in this neurotic club I lead.
But I have hope.
Because I’m part of a tribe of faith who follow a savior and leader who was rejected by His own people, and continues to be rejected by large portions of humanity.
Because there has to be a reason I heard Jia Jiang talk about rejection last week.
Because I also happen to top another list..
Most stubborn creatures, all time:
I won’t give up. I’ll feel the pain, collect those rejection letters, and keep fighting to get my story heard. And one day I’ll use that collection of rejection letters as kindling for the bonfire celebrating my breakthrough.
Because J.K. Rowling eventually got her book published.
And so did George McFly.