No, No, No, No, No: The Splendor of Rejection
Erykah Badu never spoke truer words than, when right before singing Tyrone (Live), she shared with the audience, “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit.” This quote resonated with so many of us because sharing intimate details of our lives leaves us feeling exposed, vulnerable. As artists and creatives, we share with the world our inner most thoughts. Whether it be through visual arts, music, writing, or cooking, when we share what we create, we bear our souls. And, while there is beauty in vulnerability, it is scary. The last thing we want to hear, whether explicitly or implicitly, is that our work, we, are not good enough.
Lord knows I have had my share of rejection. In fact, just this week I received a rejection email from a literary journal to which I submitted a short story. And, while this was not my first rejection, my ego was bruised, and I was disappointed. I sat on the side of my bed as I read the rejection email and thought, “Maybe I should take a break.” I was questioning my talents and abilities as a creative writer.
I never doubt my academic writing abilities. It is what I have done for the past 15 years. Creative writing, though, is a new field for me. I have been taking online writing workshops and creative writing classes, signing up for and reading newsletters from writing organizations, and reading the works of writers I admire. Still, I sometimes feel inadequate and want to give up.
Last night, after listening to the Daily Calm meditation on the Calm app, I listened to an interview with Richard Browning on Calm’s The Spark. Browning, a British inventor and founder of Gravity Industries, shared, “Failure, to me, is a critical part of risk. And risk is in turn a critical part of innovation.” I needed to hear that! Browning’s interview reminded me that failure is an inevitable opportunity for refinement. It also reminded me that rejection is part of the journey to greatness.
Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, was told by his first publisher that the book was never going to work because it was not selling well. He was eventually dropped by that publisher. The Alchemist was reissued by another publisher and went on to sell over 65 million copies and is the most translated book in the world by a living author. The Alchemist is one of my favorite books of all time. I reflect on Coelho’s story and wonder what would have become of The Alchemist had Coelho allowed rejection to stifle his dream.
Rejection does not feel good, but neither does the alternative. Giving up on my dream to write and publish poetry, prose, and short stories that inspire is not an option. The Alchemist has inspired me and millions of others to follow our dreams, trust our intuition, and listen to our hearts. I have accepted failure and rejection as part of the process, but I have also accepted that greatness takes time.
Here’s to being patient while staying the course!