I’m going to tell you a little story about a boy named Theodore Geisel (shh, now don’t interrupt if you’ve heard this one). Theodore had written a picture book manuscript called THE HOUSE ON MULBURRY STREET. He shopped it around. He sent it to twenty-two editors and, after that twenty-second rejection, Theodore decided he would go home, shred his manuscript, and give up his dream.
On the way home, he ran into an old friend of his, who had become an editor. His editor friend convinced him to let him see his manuscript. The editor changed the name of the book to THE CAT IN THE HAT, and Dr. Seuss was born.
My mom gave me a print out of this story when I was twelve years old. I tacked it to my wall, next to my computer, and whenever I was in the midst of any sort of “Why do I suck at life, my writing sucks, I should just give up” breakdown, I would look at that printout – and try again.
There used to be a motto of, “you never know – you may be only 35 cents away from that acceptance.” Now, it’s more like, “you never know – you may be just one email away from ‘the call’” – which is totally even more worth it than 35 cents, by the way.
At the end of my senior year of college, I was convinced I wanted to go to grad school to get my PH.D. in English Literature. I spent months preparing, taking tests – and at the end of it all, I was rejected from every school. I was mortified, disheartened, an absolute wreck. I decided I would just “be lost for the rest of my life.” Being lost was ok, right? Lots of people are lost.
In the meantime, the more practical side of my brain tossed out an email to my old internship, asking them to keep me in mind for any openings. No matter what, I’d spent so many years with rejection (in my querying days, I got over 100 rejections, and still kept going) that I’d built up enough of a spine to not give up, no matter what I was mumbling over shots of tequila.
I could have painfully been making my way through THE CANTERBURY TALES – in old English – and writing papers to the light of the midnight oil at this exact same time this year. Instead, I’m rambling on online conferences, building careers, and reading client work to the soft glow of my Mac computer. I couldn’t be happier. I finally realized that the only reason I’d applied to grad school in the first place was because I was terrified of what to do next.
The universe works in mysterious ways. But it always turns out in the best way for YOU. It may not be what you want, or expect, but if you allow it to throw curveballs at you and don’t stomp off the field and demand them to be thrown straight (maybe a sports analogy wasn’t the best way for this princess unicorn to go…), trust me – you’ll be rewarded in the end.
Don’t believe me?
My client, Roseanne Thong, had her manuscript with her editor for six months. Not a peep. A letter arrived from a very lovely librarian, complimenting her last book with Chronicle. Two weeks later we had an offer.
Agent and writer Mandy Hubbard recently tweeted about how she sent out PRADA AND PREJUDICE to twenty publishers, before she completely re-wrote the book from scratch – and got two offers.
These amazing stories are out there because of perseverance. It takes guts to stick it out – but that’s exactly what you have to do if you want to succeed in this business. You are allowed to cry. You are allowed to rant and moan and bitch and scream "Why do I SUCK at LIFE?!"
Just don’t. Give. Up.
Who knows – you may be an email click away from the next story on my blog. ;)