Tell Me I’m Wrong

Most, if not all, writers have to deal with the painful bite of rejection.

Even when it comes in the polite canned form of… “Unfortunately, this isn’t quite right for us at this time. But we wish you all the best of luck with it and with your writing career.”

Or, for your screenplay, “Unfortunately, this script doesn’t quite fit our criteria.” No matter how they phrase it, rejection is painful.

They are telling you a brutal truth: they don’t want your beautifully crafted story—that marvel into which you poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears. Not to mention the hours and hours you invested editing and re-editing. Nor the fanciful hours you dreamed of someone picking up your tale.

These are dreams potentially dashed each time you go to the mailbox, or open an email response to your work. “Sorry, this doesn’t fit our criteria.”

These events can leave the writer in a funk for the rest of a writing day. At least that’s how it affects me. I may find myself questioning why I even try. Why risk more of this insanity? What makes me think I have talent? Or that another human being might take pleasure or comfort or joy from what I’ve written.

Right about now you are probably asking yourself, “Why is this guy battering my otherwise great morning, dragging me into the depths of bad memories and of past rejections, when I’d much rather leave those hurtful experiences buried away in the dark recesses—locked away in the trunk at the back of the closet way down at the bottom of my pity-pit?

Here’s why. One day in the not-so-distant past, right after opening yet another dreaded rejection email and suddenly gripped by that familiar dark mood of self-pity/self doubt, when all the world had turned bleak and colorless, I stumbled onto a song by a Canadian singer—a song that grabbed hold of my wounded psyche and lifted me out of my funk.

Curious about the singer, Justin Hines, I looked him up on line. What I found jolted me, made me realize what a great “woosey” I was, letting words in an email twist me like that. Undermine my self-image, when in truth I had so much.

Here was this young man, relegated to a wheelchair for life, his body distorted by a dreadful disease, a rare genetic joint condition called Larsen’s syndrome. It causes the body’s joints to dislocate. To prevent this, the joints are medically fused. So not only is this talented young man bound to a wheelchair, his body has been surgically transformed into rigid unnatural angles. Yet with all that against him, he chooses a life style that requires him to appear before audiences, and perform. To put himself up for public judgment—and brave the possibility of the hurtful slap of rejection or worse humiliation! Justin claims he does it because he loves it—because he’s always wanted to do it. And he, by God, stayed with it until he made it.

It hit me in a flash of self-realization, I write because I have something to say, and by God I want to share it. And that I shouldn’t let some mechanical email or form letter drown my desire. I’ve got to keep swimming, keep writing, keep trying.

I’m attaching the link to the official video and lyrics of Justin’s song for my writing friends to print out and hang with the image of Justin Hines someplace above your computer. My hope is, next time any of you feel like wallowing in self-pity and loathing, you’ll read the song, look at Justin and know you sure as hell can keep on keeping on.

Damn the letters of rejection! Write on!




15 responses to “Tell Me I’m Wrong

  1. Powerful post. Timely too, after several rejections I have just turned down a publisher’s request to rewrite using one character. My dream was not to write ‘their’ story but mine. To have mine published, not theirs. After days of tears and tantrums. I took my writing life in hand. I stopped the self-pity of ‘why do they want me to change. All I want is to be read’.. Why did I drop the self-pity? My friend died of motor neurone disease, aged 54. Their dreams stopped that day. I still had my chance. So this week I decided to work on and self publish with the help of friends.

    Your post has a strong message. Pick yourself up and enjoy what you have.

  2. Thank you so much, Wally. And how timely! I was just rejected yesterday by an agent who, after requesting “the complete,” after saying my paranormal thriller was “well-written” and “moves quickly” declined to represent me because—and she knew what the book was about from day one—she doesn’t represent paranormal. Laugh or cry?

    Yet this sort of obstacle is nothing compared with Mr. Hines’ situation—successful or not at what he does. So, yes, Glynis, I will pick myself up and enjoy what I have. Looks like the beginning of another wonderful writing day.

    • Damn the Torpedoes, Raymond, full speed ahead.

    • Raymond–sorry you had bad news, but there’s always the next opportunity!

      • There are still irons in the fire, Cathy. The ball is still in play in at least one important court. And then, there’s tomorrow.

        Found this:

        “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

        – T.R. Roosevelt

  3. eden baylee (@edenbaylee)

    What an encouraging post to read this morning, Wally. Justin is a national Canadian hero, and hails from about an hour north of Toronto. His voice is a wonderful example of the talent and diversity of what disabled people can do.

    Those of us fortunate not to have been born with any physical disabilities can learn a big lesson from him. The biggest obstacle that stops most of us is our own minds — surely we can overcome that.


  4. Wally, this is a terrific post – I’m going to bookmark it (and the link to the video and lyrics) so whenever I get discouraged. People truly are amazing. And so courageous.


  5. Thank you for this post, Wally. It was definitely humbling and inspiring.

  6. Write on, indeed!!

    Or, as I like to say – Dream big, work hard, never say die!

  7. I hope it wakes us all up to say, I worthwhile and what i’ve got to say, needs to be heard!

    Love you all

    Anyone going to be at the Northwest Bookfest on Friday Night or Sunday? thanks to Deborah, I will be there? I’m moderating a screenwriting panel.

  8. Wow–great post. It is always good to put things in perspective, and Justin reminds us to do just that…with a little help from you.

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