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Warning: Very sappy post ahead.
I was talking to the lovely highschooler I mentor a few weeks ago and she was distraught because she’d been rejected. She wondered if she should stop writing because she hadn’t won a national writing contest.
Did you get that? She didn’t win first place in a writing contest which THOUSANDS of students entered, and she thought it meant she was a bad writer. This is ridiculous and I told her as much (I said it nicely, don’t freak out).
Our conversation made me realize how often I’ve made similar assumptions in my own life. I wasn’t the best person on the team so I assumed I shouldn’t be on it. I didn’t get into the first musical theater program I auditioned for, so I decided I must not be good enough to get into any.
But here’s the thing: in order to get what you want out of life, you have to be willing to face rejection.
I’ll say it one more time for the people in the back: in order to get what you want, you have to be willing to face rejection.
In my short time on this earth I’ve been rejected for everything imaginable. I didn’t get most of the student leadership positions I applied for in college. I haven’t gotten 90 percent of the jobs I went after. When I was a performer I didn’t get into most of the shows I auditioned for. Most recently, when I was querying agents for my novel I had an approximate 60 percent rejection rate.
But guess what?
It only takes one yes.
I wish I could show you the incredibly detailed Rejection Spreadsheet I had when querying agents. It was intensely color coded and filled with all sorts of information about how long it took for someone to reject me, if they had anything nice to say, if it was a form letter, how thoroughly they’d crushed my dreams etc.. I’ll protect the innocent and not show the whole thing, but basically here’s what it ended up looking like:
If you’re wondering if Red was the Color of Rejection the answer is YES. Yes it was. You’ll notice there is exactly one green box.
It only took one.
I didn’t need 25 agents, I needed one. I didn’t need 10 jobs, I needed one.
We live in a world where what you want often lies down a path that someone else has to open the door for. If you want to be a lawyer, you have to get into law school. If you want to be on Broadway, you have to be cast in a Broadway show. If you want to play basketball, you have to make the team.
All this can make it feel like success is out of your hands. This is a lie. Success is up to you. Because in order to get into law school Because in order to get into law school you have to take the LSAT. To be on Broadway, you have to audition. To make the team, you have to try out.
It’s up to you.
Please, for the love of carbs, friends, do not let rejection keep you from knocking on the door. I have folders full of rejections for freelance pitches, jobs, and my novel. But I’ve sold pitches. I have a job I love. And I have representation for that novel.
It only takes one yes.
Keep going. Knock on the door. Make the ask. Start training. Send the application. Cold call the client.
And when you get the (inevitable) first rejection, don’t give up. Rejection isn’t cause for shame, it’s cause for celebration. Why? Because to get rejected you have to actually try for something. If you’ve been rejected, congratulations! Welcome to the club.
Celebrate your rejections, embrace all the nos that come your way, and get very comfortable with doors being slammed in your face. But never, ever, not even for a minute, let any of those things make you think you’re not good enough. Do not let something as small and insignificant as rejection keep you from your dream.
It only takes one yes. So don’t stop asking.
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I have always said that rejections should be celebrated! Without those rejections and the work that went behind them, you’ll never get a yes! I definitely have kept every single no from every single literary magazine that’s turned me down….I wish they were all paper because the stack of them would make me feel very accomplished
YES! The only time I wish paper was still a thing is so I could make wallpaper out of my rejection letters.
Yes! That would be wallpaper of accomplishment