Im not a very resilient writer. Thats why I decided to write a book about writers who are. I wanted to learn from writers who have persisted in the face of obstacles and failures as long as it took to achieve publication and success. My research included in-depth interviews with 23 prominent authors, all of whom have had a wide range of experiences with rejection.
All the writers in The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Top Authors agree that rejection is an unmistakable part of the writing life.
Janet Fitch, for example, says, "Rejection plays an overwhelming role in your career as a writer." She emphatically tells her writing students that they cant consider themselves writers until theyve received at least one hundred rejection slips. She also tells beginning writers that you cant get crushed by just a handful of rejections because "thats a lot of what being a writer is."
Wesley Brown says that rejection is a persistent experience for writers. He calls it "an integral part of any creative endeavor." But, he adds, just because you accept that rejection is part of the process doesnt mean you have to agree with the rejections or take them to heart.
Whats the key to getting past rejection? For Elizabeth Benedict, its understanding that the publishing business is just that a business. "What youre trying to do is interest a businessperson in your writing, and the businessperson has to decide whether this is the right article, book or short story for his or her publication." She adds that its important to remember that rejection is "not necessarily a definitive comment on you or your talent."
While struggling to get published, its important for writers to take as much joy as possible from the writing process itself. Kathryn Harrison talks about scientific studies showing that a pigeon will peck almost endlessly for corn after its gotten just one kernel. "For me," she says, "the thing that writing offers, that moment in which I feel Im doing it right, is transcendent enough that Ill peck another thousand times."
Amy Tan agrees. The advice to struggling writers that she shares in The Resilient Writer is "to try to go back to that place where you first wanted to write, or the first moment that you had that epiphany of what writing is about, and try to recapture that."
While researching and writing The Resilient Writer, I recaptured a lot of my own love of writing, despite all its annoyances, uncertainties, frustrations and perils - and I'm hoping the book will rekindle this joy in other writers as well.