“Rejection refines us. Those who fall prey to its enervating soul-sucking tentacles are doomed. Those who persist past it are survivors. Best ask yourself the question: what kind of writer are you? The kind who survives? Or the kind who gets asphyxiated by the tentacles of woe?” said writer Chuck Wendig.
This quote hangs above my computer and, to me, is the most useful quote I have. If you’re chasing dreams, there’s a good chance you’ve dealt with rejection.
I drafted this post right after a twenty-four-hour span of rejection on three separate fronts. First from a publisher for my novel. Then a highly anticipated/competitive grad school. And then a “PASS” from a producer for my screenplay.
I’ve been rejected countless times. But I really felt these, which had life-alternating potential. I really felt those tentacles that Wendig speaks of.
It felt like a great deal of weight. All I wanted to do was go to sleep. Lie in bed and close my eyes and hope the feeling would slither away.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way and it never will.
I’ve known from the very start of chasing the elusive career as a working writer that rejections are inevitable. And after so many, I convinced myself that if I wasn’t getting rejected for something at least once a month, then I wasn’t trying hard enough. I wasn’t reaching high enough.
It takes a self-prescribed illusion of an idyllic future to continue to press forward. You have to brainwash yourself to show up every day and know it’s worth it. You have to ignore the reality of statistics that say you won’t make it. Rejection knocks you out of that illusion and tells you, despite all of your hard work and progress, you’re still untalented and you won’t make it.
Those tentacles come lashing, twisting and turning all around. Telling me and you to give up, to take the easy way out and go find a nine to five sales position.
But know this: These tentacles will soon slither back to where they came from. The rejection will refine you and you’ll keep writing or drawing or painting or recording and hopefully if you’re good enough—you’ll again face rejection head-on.
With every rejection, you’ll be refined with a new ability. With a new sense of self and a thicker hide to take it. Grad school rejection? Screenplay rejection? Novel rejection? I’m broken and mended back together with gold. Good as new.
I look at another quote on my wall by Steven Pressfield: “It’s better to be in the arena being stomped by the bull than it is to be in the bleachers or in the parking lot.”
Rejection will never define you. And neither will success. What defines you is how you get back up, how you get back to work and how you fight through the grip of rejection and doubt.
The tentacles will leave their lash marks and you’ll have a story to tell. I’d rather eat my own bullshit than someone else’s at the nine to five.
I’m now refined with a new order of success. I’ve replanted my feet and adjusted, and I’m preparing myself again for the next project, my next rejection, but very possibly the one that makes it all worth it.
Since drafting this post, and now posting it: I’ve found a publisher for my novel and was accepted into BU’s MFA Screenwriting program.
Always be writing