“The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to. Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript — or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here] – in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this author did. Give in to your obsession instead.”*
Give in to your obsession — I love that, don’t you? As writers, we have to be obsessed with the work we’re doing, or we’d never get anywhere would we? Kathryn should know. The Help, her best-selling novel, was turned down 60 times. That’s right. She received 60 rejection letters, before she hit the jackpot and found an agent who sold the book for her.
It to Kathryn 18 months to write her first draft. When it was turned down, she continued to work on it. She sent it to more agents and racked up 15 more rejections — and went back to rewriting. Another 18 months later, she hit rejection letter 40. At that point, she began making stories up about what she was doing because she was too embarrassed to tell her friends she was still working on her loser of a book.
In the end, it took five years of writing and three-and-a half years of rejection before she received letter 61 — three weeks later, her story sold.
“I could not make myself give up” — that’s what Kathryn says about her fight to bring her novel to life despite all the rejection she faced. What courage it must have taken to keep the faith, to sustain her enthusiasm, to keep improving her work, to stay with it!
We all come to those moments when everything seems to be falling apart and no one cares about what we’re doing. Do we keep going — or open up the bedside drawer and toss our dream inside? Don’t give up — give in! Give in to your obsession — and let it carry you home. Write on!
* From an essay in The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives, edited by Katie Couric