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Write From Home
Kim Wilson
P.O. Box 4145
Hamilton, NJ 08610

E-mail: kim @ writefromhome.com

Everything I Needed to Know About Rejection, I Learned in High School
by Carol Sjostrom Miller


At 25, I decided to become a writer. I was "between jobs," and I thought writing would be the perfect career. I queried two magazines for a feature article. When I got the first rejection letter, I cried. When I got the second, I decided features weren't for me. I wrote an essay and sent it to two different magazines. When both rejections arrived on the same day, I polished up my resume and got a job as a social worker. People asked why I gave up on writing, and I said I couldn't handle rejection. It hurt too much.

For the next six years, I only wrote in my journals. And I had a lot to write about. I endured the pregnancy from hell, complete with fainting spells, premature labor, and five weeks of bedrest. I quit my job and decided to stay home with my daughter. I survived the first three years of motherhood. My father died. Sometimes I would think, "This would make a great essay," or, "I should write an article about that." But I would remember the sting of those rejection letters and put my journal away, never even trying.

Then, one day, as I was attempting to organize the junk on the top shelf of my closet, I found my photo album from high school. As I flipped through it, I saw two photographs that convinced me to give writing another try.

The first was a picture of me and my first real boyfriend. We were together for ten months, an amount of time that had me--in the romantic daze of a 16-year-old girl-- planning our future right down to the side-by-side cemetery plots. Until he dumped me, loudly, in the main hallway between classes and walked away with another girl. I cried for a week, or three, and then I got over the rejection.

As I looked at the photograph, I asked myself, "If I could live through teenage public humiliation, couldn't I handle a few form letters as a mature adult?" But it took one more picture to convince me that giving my dream of writing one more shot was worth the risk of rejection.

This one was a group photo taken on my senior class trip to Florida. Next to me, with his arm around me was the guy I loved our entire senior year.  Petrified of rejection, I never told him how I felt. He probably didn't feel the same way. But maybe -- just maybe -- he did, and was afraid of rejection too. I never gave myself the chance to find out, and for longer than I care to admit, I wondered, "What if?"

I never wanted to wonder, "What if I had written?"

I put those two pictures in my desk drawer and started writing -- and submitting. I collected 26 rejections before my first acceptance, but I survived.

Whenever my mailbox is stuffed with rejections and I start thinking about giving up writing, I take out those pictures. (I would hang them up, but my husband isn't crazy about having my ex-boyfriend and ex-crush displayed for my motivation!) They remind me of high school's two most important lessons for a writer: that regrets are worse than rejections, and that when the inevitable rejections do come my way, I can handle them. After all, I did survive high school, didn't I?


Carol Sjostrom Miller lives in New Jersey with her husband and two daughters. Her work has appeared in Writer's Weekly, The Writing Parent, Inscriptions, Busy Freelancer, ByLine and WritersDigest.com. She stopped counting rejections when they reached triple digits.


 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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