Monday, April 18, 2011

The Power of Failure and Rejection

Last week I attended the Missouri Writers’ Guild Just Write Conference and coordinated the pitch sessions. For those of you who are not writers, pitch sessions are when authors try to sign with an agent or editor who can sell their books to major publishers. Ten agents listened to seven minute pitches from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Some of the authors had worked on their novels for years and in seven minutes tried to convince a professional that their book could be a success. This process is so important to the authors that they are understandably nervous.

“My goal is to not throw up on my shoes,” one author said. I’m happy to report she came out of the session with clean feet and a smile on her face.

Many just came out shaking their heads no. “She didn’t like it,” or “She doesn’t know where she can sell the book,” were some of the remarks. These authors have a chance of success because they did not let the fear of failure, or rejection, keep them from pursuing their dreams.

One young author, Christine Karsh, pitched to four different agents and three requested the first thirty to fifty pages of her young adult novel. She was ecstatic! Taking a chance on rejected may have landed her a New York agent.

Some of the best authors are never published because they are afraid of rejection. Every time I submit a story, I realize it may be rejected. Recently, my local writers’ guild announced the stories to be published in this year’s anthology. Of course, some of the stories and poetry had been rejected. Some authors were angry, one poet said she felt “broken,” and another author just laughed and said, “It’s hard to know what the judge is going to like.”

At our writers’ guild, we use a positive attitude about successes and failures. Often, the same people report both.

“One of my stories won a prize,” I’ll sometimes say when we report our successes.

“Any failures to report?” the president asked at our last meeting.

“I do,” I said. “The story I submitted to Mysteries of the Ozarks was gently rejected.”

I’ve been rejected many times as a writer. If I didn’t take a chance on being rejected, I would never have been published or won any prizes. I have had stories rejected by a publication and resubmitted them to contests and won more in prizes than the publication paid.

Sometimes our fear of failure can hold us back from meeting our most basic needs in life. During this time of high unemployment, some people have their job applications rejected so many times that they have become so discouraged they quit looking. When I was out of work in the early 80s, the situation was the much the same as it is now. I went on job interview after job interview until I successfully landed a job at an electric cooperative. I wound up getting a much better job than had I been hired at one of the places that rejected me.

When I became Jim’s caregiver, I worried about failure. I was plagued with doubts. Would I be able to take care of him? Could I make the best decisions for him? Would I be able to handle years of overwhelming responsibility? I battled with a sense of failure when I finally had to place Jim in long-term care. I felt like it was my fault when Jim was kicked out of the nursing home. If I hadn’t let icy roads keep me away, would I have been able to ward off the dark mood that led up to the incident? My biggest doubts were on this date six years ago when Jim died. Did I fail to find some treatment that would have made a difference?

In my heart I know that everything was done for Jim that could be done, and I’m glad that I didn’t let fear of failure make me give up. Realistically, I knew we were not going to successfully stave off the ultimate destiny of our dementia journey, but it didn’t keep me from wanting to make that journey as happy as it could be.

Every morning when we wake up, we can decide whether we want to play it safe and not take any chances, or we can make the most of our God given talents. If we do not let fear of rejection and failure hold us back, we have unleashed the ultimate power tool for success.

Copyright © April 2011 by L.S. Fisher
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