Re-framing Rejection

Mysticartdesign Image – Pixabay

Recently I re-read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and for me, it still stands out as one of the best books focusing on ‘the craft’. The memoir conversational style of writing throughout creates a very honest and accessible account of King’s journey to becoming a best-selling author, with the technical advice neatly threaded into the narrative in a way that makes you think this guy clearly knows what he’s talking about, as you can read he’s a natural storyteller within the pages of this book.

Things that struck me this time around when I was reading was the fearlessness and tenacity King showed as a young writer when he would study the stories in numerous short story publications, then submit, submit, submit. If he got a rejection (and there were many as he started out), he simply kept going, often re-working and quickly re-submitting elsewhere, all the time consciously developing his craft. He did what we should all do really – don’t dwell on the ‘no’, just strive to get better and to find your story a home where it fits. (Keep reading on and I’ll share a challenge which might help with this)

Ironically the one time King nearly gave up on a piece of writing was with Carrie, his debut novel that launched his career. When he started to write Carrie, it was as a short story, and he felt it just wasn’t working. I love the way King threads in stories about his wife Tabitha, often reminiscing about how she has supported him at key moments throughout his career. Nothing better illustrates this than when Tabitha retrieves the crumpled pages of Carrie out of the bin and tells King to keep going because she wants to see how the story ends. King reflects on what his experience with Carrie taught him and I’ll quote an abridged version here;

Don’t stop a piece of work because it’s hard (emotionally or imaginatively). Keep going even when you don’t feel like it, and ‘sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is shoveling shit from a sitting position.’ pg.82

Another section which stood out to me was when King described ‘the first time in (his) life, (when) writing was hard’. This was when he was working as a teacher, and even although he acknowledged the good parts – loving the kids and co-workers – he described ending the week feeling like he had ‘jumper cables clamped to (his) brain.’ (pg. 76) and it was the one time he, ..’came close to despairing about (his) future as a writer.’ I’ve included this in this post as it’s something, even with dropping a day at work, that really resonates with me. With a caseload of close to one hundred young people (doing indepth one to one work), and I’m now in an education setting one day a week, I understand the ‘jumper cables clamped to my brain’ description very well. It takes a lot to decompress, and stay creative.

Staying motivated to write when you have a lot of other things competing with your time is difficult. Especially if you don’t always see much reward.

So, something else I read lately which caught my attention, and actually gave me a spark of motivation, was an article about setting yourself Rejection Goals. You can read ‘Why You should aim to get 100 Rejections a Year’ here (The author of the article Kim Liao actually references King’s On Writing and the way he collected his initial rejections, nailing them to the wall, like a badge of honour).

The idea behind the 100 rejections goal is the more you submit, the more acceptances you are likely to get, and it quietens ‘your fragile ego.’ The perfectionist in me, never mind my fragile creative ego, thinks the psychology of this one is quite clever – if I can trick my brain into thinking my aim is to reach 100 rejections, I’m going to let go of any nagging doubts that I’m not good enough, and to let go of any disappointments of ‘set-backs’ because that simply is no longer the objective of my task.

So if you’re reading this and it seems like a great new challenge to embark upon, why don’t you join me?

We can sail into 2023 with the aim of racking up a lot of ‘nos’, or in the case of modern publishing, a big empty silence of never hearing back …

Good luck!

Do we live in an extrovert’s world?

When things slowed down during lockdown this was a question that played on my mind. As a mix of a ‘social’ and ‘thinking’ introvert’ I very much need solitude to recharge and give me time to get lost in my thoughts every once in a while. You can see a definition of four types of introversion in this article here. There is a line at the start of the article which states, …’extroverts…thrive in highly stimulative social environments’. I would say I often do too, but only if you give me enough balance to hide away when I want to, and have time for much needed introspection.

The break from the norm over the past couple of years made me realise how loud the world can be. Morning commutes on public transport where so many commuters think we all want to listen to whatever they are watching/listening to on their phones (last week I was treated to a recording of a student’s lecture on the way to work). And then there is the open plan office environment which can quickly descend into a pit of noise. I did really begin to miss the social interaction of office life (and it is very important in my service delivery to clients), but I am still so grateful for moments of quiet on busy days where I need to focus on research and tasks. I wouldn’t enjoy my job if I didn’t enjoy meeting and engaging with people, but on a recent training workshop I was reminded that the level of ‘active listening’ I do in my day job can be tiring! And some quiet time is so important.

Talking to young people throughout lockdown also gave me new sympathy for those who actually breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed escaping from the over-whelming ‘noise’ and social interactions in schools, and those who had left school were grateful for some new options where they were able to log in to online courses , taking the pressure off if they were having a bad day and didn’t want to leave the house.  There is the other side of the coin of course too, where lack of social interaction and ability to have the freedom to live life was not welcome.

I also have sympathy for the growing expectations from employers in interviews, with assessment centres (when in person), often incorporating group tasks and role-play scenarios (do extroverts even enjoy these?).

I’m not saying a ‘quiet’ world is necessarily preferable over a loud world; but it would be nice to sometimes have more of an equal balance.

In my writing life I am forever grateful for the skills I developed when training to become, and then work, as a careers adviser. Writers I suspect often fall into the introvert category, as we need time and space to escape into our own imaginative worlds, and the work by nature often requires sitting alone in solitude. (I’m saying ‘often’, as I know some writers actually prefer to sit in cafes with some background noise and people around.)

When writers then release their work out into the world, there can be the expectation to magically turn into a ‘performer’; talking and presenting and delivering engaging workshops in front of multiple audiences. I soon got lots of practice of how to be a ‘performer’ in my early years as a careers adviser where I had to hold the attention of teenagers during multiple talks and workshops. Fast forward to my debut novel release and I suddenly realised how lots of my skills transferred when I put on my ‘author hat’ to engage with young people. And even if the thought of standing in front of hundreds of young people is still nerve wracking, each and every event has been enjoyable – even the one where the IT system broke down just as I was about to deliver a power point presentation to the whole of second year. (Another thing I learned from the day job – always be prepared to adapt pre-prepared sessions!)

Even the way writers engage with audiences online is becoming much more ‘extrovert’ and ‘performative’. Writing blogs such as this is something I enjoy, and I think used to be more of a ‘thing’ in the writing community. Now this form seems over-shadowed by visual and spoken content on Instagram, Youtube channels, Podcasts and of course #Booktok. I referred to TikTok in a previous post where I talked about my hesitancy of this world. I like the idea of trying to put together creative videos (and I am a fan of ‘visuals’ as well as words), but not when it’s me talking to the camera!

Every time I watch TikTok or read about social media ‘influencers’ who have millions of followers, I can’t help thinking about Andy Warhol’s quote ‘In the future everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes’ (you can read an old post of mine where I talk about how Andy Warhol’s philosophies influenced my YA mystery Follow Me here).

These days I think it’s more like fifteen seconds, Andy.

I’m sure he would have risen to the challenge…

Chasing Magic


At the end of June I spent a fabulous weekend at the quirky Rosely Country House Hotel on a Chasing Time writing retreat. The theme for this particular retreat was ‘Stop the Clock’, with the emphasis on taking ‘time out’ to write.

As soon as I arrived at this gothic mansion, which dates back to the 1800s, I could feel my imagination wake up. Writers Dawn, Elizabeth and Sandra were wonderful hosts throughout the retreat, delivering stimulating and creative workshops. Between workshops we were able to wander around the grounds of the hotel, and used the gardens as inspiration for one of our ‘writing sprints’. I loved that our hosts set up a little ‘library’ in the massive conservatory, with a table filled with books about writing and creativity, that we were all able to dip in and out of throughout our stay. I started to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’ and it was perfect timing for me as a lot of the sentiments in this tied in with my last blog post about taking time out to daydream and ‘create’, as well as acknowledging the fear and doubts that can creep in when you try to write.

The beautiful conservatory

I loved meeting the other writers on the retreat – we were all at different stages of our writing careers, with different focuses and styles, but at the heart of every conversation was a passion and enthusiasm for words and creating stories. There’s nothing better than being able to switch off from the ‘real world’ for a while and talk about writing and books.

On my first morning at the retreat I woke up very early, with scenes from my new book tumbling through my mind. I used the free writing time on the Saturday afternoon to map out the first eight chapters (a kind of meticulous planning that I never do!), as well as writing extensive notes about characters. Since returning home I have made a good start on this book and I am so glad I took the time out on this weekend to kick-start the creation.

There was a real sense of calm and quiet in the house. There’s something about old buildings which I find peaceful, perhaps because there is none of the ‘buzz’ of modern appliances. It’s rumored that there are a few ghosts hanging about Rosely. I am almost certain these ghosts were writers,  joining in the fun on the retreat by weaving some creative magic into my dreams.

For any writer out there who is craving a little time away from their busy life, I can’t recommend this sanctuary enough. You can check out the Chasing Time schedule at their website here

I will sign off with a quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Big Magic’:  ‘A creative life is an amplified life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner – continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you – is a fine art, in and of itself.’