The Top 2 Things You Should Know About Rejection

It’s simple, really.

1. No one owes us anything.

We’re not entitled to anyone’s time, admiration, or acceptance; these are privileges earned by a mixture of hard work, open-mindedness, persistence, education, and yes, luck. Last night my husband and I watched Gambit on Netflix, and this line, spoken by Colin Firth, really hit home:

“He’s seen the painting, and he’s considering being intrigued.”

It made me laugh because it’s so true. Sometimes, considering being intrigued is all we get.

2. The only person who can make you stop is you.

Even if you can wallpaper an entire room with rejection slips, you can still keep writing. Or painting or singing or dancing. I won’t sugar coat this and say you should only do it for the love of the art (though we all should) or try to pretend that validation of our work isn’t incredibly gratifying. But if you really dig beneath all that—beneath the pain of rejection and the joy of acceptance—you’ll find the only reason worth trying as hard as you do is because you love it. If you don’t, it’s just not worth it. And if you do, no amount of rejection can take away the ecstasy of creating something you love. So be unstoppable.



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Natalia Sylvester

Natalia Sylvester is the author of the novel CHASING THE SUN (Lake Union/New Harvest, June 2014), about a frail marriage tested to the extreme by the wife's kidnapping in Lima, Peru. A former magazine editor, she now works as a freelance writer in Texas. Visit her online at

This article has 7 Comments

  1. Agree with #1 but even more with #2. Nobody can make stop, nobody can make you keep going. It’s just your decision.

    My mother was an art historian, and I remember her getting annoyed when she read about an artist who had stopped painting at one point and started making small constructs out of found objects instead — the article talked about what an interesting artistic choice that had been.

    As my mother pointed out, if the writer had done even basic research, it would have become obvious that the artist had stopped painting because he was broke and couldn’t afford paint. He was living in a little shack in the woods, and he made art out of what he had around him. Because if you’re an artist, you figure your way around the lack of paint and keep going.

  2. I definitely agree with both, but I have a love/hate relationship with #2. Sometimes you have to keep in mind the business of art if you want to make your art the best it can be. And often, those who don’t treat it well aren’t treated well by it in return.

    1. I agree that we can’t completely ignore the business side of things when we’re publishing. That’s why I think timing/luck is such an important part of it; it’s not always that a book is or isn’t great, it’s just that it might not be marketable at the moment. We have to learn to recognize and accept these patterns and then keep going.

  3. I think #1 is so important to grasp. I know so many people with a chip on their shoulder because they feel they are “owed” something (an agent, a book deal, massive amounts of royalties, etc.) Accepting that we’re not “owed” anything is a big part of managing expectations.

    1. Yes! And strangely it’s the hardest thing to make someone understand, because it’s so much about attitude. They really have to be open to the idea that we’re not owed anything.

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