All the great artists, writers, and composers have faced rejection. But they worked out how to deal with it and how to respond to it. No one likes criticism and rejection. The small consolation with criticism is that at least someone is taking you seriously. Rejection means that they don’t care. How a person deals with rejection determines whether they will ultimately be a success or failure. Rejection is unavoidable in a creative life. Rejection somehow strengthens the resolve of highly successful people. It seems to invigorate them. Rejection injures even the most able and dedicated creative person but those who are ultimately successful don’t take it personally.
C. S. Lewis received countless rejections before eventually landing a publishing deal and having his work translated into over 47 languages. The Chronicles of Narnia sold over 100 million copies.
The Da Vinci Code has sold over 80 million but was rejected because "It is so badly written." Doubleday took up Dan Brown eventually.
J.D. Salinger rewrote The Catcher in the Rye after it was rejected because, "We feel we don’t know the character well enough." It’s sold 65 million.
After 38 rejections from publishers Margaret Mitchell found one with enough belief to publish Gone With The Wind. It sold 30 million copies.
These writers all had the discipline and dedication to see their projects through. Every time a manuscript was rejected, they reworked it—improved the opening line, made the opening paragraph more dynamic, or added a more dramatic ending. They improved their work and they improved as writers. Overcoming the adversity of rejection opened up avenues of personal discovery that enabled them to uncover the nature of their true selves.
It’s important to learn how to accept rejection and reject acceptance. More astonishing than the way those writers dealt with rejection, was the way they dealt with success. Success didn’t affect them any more than failure had.
I once bumped into one of my ex-students who optimistically said, "My rejection letters have been more encouraging lately." I’ll never forget his hopeful and positive attitude. It was really touching. Later still I heard he’d had an acceptance letter. Praise and success breeds complacency and mediocrity. Rejection breeds determination. It encourages you to re-examine your work and improve it, to strive to be better.
Rod Judkins MA RCA is an artist, writer, and professional public speaker, delivering lectures and workshops that explain the creative process and help individuals and businesses to be more inspired in their lives and work. He is author of the international bestseller, Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self.
Change Your Mind: 57 Ways to Unlock Your Creative Self