Learning to get rejected

In school, there’s a new lesson and the teacher calls on you for an example, to which you try your best to explain. Answer is no. Teacher says you got the whole thing wrong.

In university, you’re looking to get an extension on your paper. Answer is no. The professor says you can’t have an extension because like the 495 other students, you were told about this final deadline weeks ago.

At work, you’re working on a new strategy and you bring an idea to the table. Answer is no. The team lead says it’s not a good idea, or it has its caveats, and they won’t take it.

So wait… I muster up the courage to put myself out there with a possibly outrageous idea or something out of my comfort zone, and you just shoot me down like that?

Answer is no?

Gathering my (limited yet) experiences of school, university, work, and social environments, I find that getting rejected is a fairly common denominator in our day-to-day life.

The sooner we learn to deal with it, the sooner we’ll learn to get over it.

One of my favourite quotes that my mom often paraphrases and refers to is:

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

– Thomas Edison

She says that no matter what you’re doing, what new thing you’re trying, what new journey upon which you are embarking, know that there is always something to be learned. You don’t get it right the first time? No problem. It’s not about you get it right the first time. It’s about you getting closer and closer to getting it right, each time you try and try again.

So why am I writing about all this?

Well, it has to do a little bit with my writing itself.

All through school, high school, and even university, my teachers and professors often said that I had great writing skills. They said it was coherent, grammatically sound, had a professional tone and commanding narrative when and as required, among some. It gave me great confidence in my writing… spitting out 2-page papers in early years, to writing pages and pages (I couldn’t even fathom the concept of an 8000-word paper until I was assigned it in third year university). I love writing. And seemingly, other people love my writing too. I didn’t know it at first, but I was high on compliments. My own cloud nine, you may call it. I thought I could write anything! And so I did.

I started writing in a diary. I know, it sounds like the ultimate teenage thing to do — and it was — and I did it. For months on end, I wrote and wrote and wrote. I wrote about my feelings, I wrote about my dreams, I wrote about things that happened in my life, and about things I’d wished happened in my life. My 14-year-old mind had free reign with pen and paper. Eventually, I outgrew my diary phase, and stopped writing.

Then we were hit with “digital mania,” as I’ll call it. I had the wonderful idea to re-start my diary, but this time online. I posted 1 post, and then forgot all about it.

I started a blog. I stopped the blog. I was inconsistent. No one was reading whatever little I had written, and as soon as I stopped getting positive feedback, I stopped writing. Who cares? No one’s going to miss this, I thought.

I restarted writing. On a new blog, I think.

Then I stopped again.

This went on for a while, I don’t know why.

Anyway, that’s besides the point. For many years, I didn’t blog, write in a diary, nothing. I just seemed to not care for leisurely writing anymore. I’d forgotten the joy it brought me to put words on paper.

So I stopped.

Then one day, on September 21st, 2013, I don’t know what came over me, but I started yet another blog.

My first post was titled “Meaningful Beginnings,” and it was, in fact, the start of something new (cue High School Musical song reference here) and meaningful. From then to now, I’ve been relatively consistent (and I use that term loosely) in posting my writing, good and bad, my poetry, my essays, my thoughts about the world, my rants about what frustrates me… all on this blog.

But what would be next?

After much consideration, I took the initiative to start submitting my writing pieces to a few literary magazines, journals, and publication houses.

I was very excited to start submitting! Writing cover letters, author biographies, titling my submissions in a coded manner for the editing process… it was all very exciting.

Until I got my first rejection letter.

My high came crashing down as if I’d been hit in the back of the knee with a bullet.

Like, damn…

A scene from a movie came to mind at that moment.

rejection letter in writing
Rejection letters lining an entire wall of a New York City struggling writer’s apartment, in the film “5 to 7,” (dir. Vitor Levin).

At the end of the film, after all these rejections, he does get published. 1 short story. That’s all it is. That doesn’t mean he gave up after hundreds of rejections. Maybe it was #101 that worked out for him. He’d have never known had he not reached there, giving up after rejection #12, for example.

Learning to get rejected is one of the keys to success. Success comes to those who wait? No. Success comes to those who persevere, who don’t accept no as an answer, who don’t give up.

And so here I am, 6 rejections in, still writing, still submitting, still waiting… for my #101. You should too.

Any time you’re in the same boat, remember to wait for your #101.

It will happen.

If you want something bad enough, the entire universe conspires with you to help you get it.

Just make sure you have clear in your head what you want, and work tirelessly towards it.

This is the last line from the film:


It will happen.

One of my favourite characters, Rocky (yes, the hit (pun intended) 7-part movie series starring the gritty Sylvester Stallone as a boxer) says:

Life is not about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving.

– Rocky Balboa

Yours Truly, AJ


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