You Can Get (Almost) Anything on EBay

As I write this post, EBay has sixty active listings for “full suit of armor.”

Some are shiny silver, others are bronze. Some have gaudy feathers on the helmet, others offer chain mail accents. A few promise a complimentary battle axe. The prices range from $10-$9,650, and twenty listings offer free shipping.

But as long as mine is a full suit of armor, a head-to-toe get-up that will protect my tender heart, my fragile ego, my flighty muse from all writerly rejection, I’ll be a happy customer.

So what size armor am I? If it’s too big or too small, will a tailor be able to alter the suit to fit my 5’4”, short-waisted self?  Oh, and I am prone to heat rash . . . and armor, I assume, lacks the breathability of cotton.

Shoot. I just did some research and learned that even chain mail, which would provide a bit more ventilation on warm summer days, is heavy. Clangy too. How can I possibly sneak up on people when I’m so clangy? Will librarians allow me to enter the library with such a noisy ensemble? Shhhh! They will say. SHHHH, Knight-Writer!

Still, I desperately want to protect my sensitive self from the many forms of rejection that are hurled at me, sometimes when I am prepared, and other times, when I have left my shield and safety goggles at home, right there on the counter beside my grocery list and the overdue library books.

Make no mistake; we writers will be rejected. Agents will not want to represent our work. Editors will not want to purchase our manuscript. Our sincere blog posts will be mocked. We will get one-star ratings on Amazon and Good Reads.

We writers will be rejected in productive ways (“I adored your protagonist, but the second half of the story felt predictable, even when she punched the priest, then ran off with the Best Man. “) and unproductive ways, (“Your book sucked. I don’t know how it got published. It was worse than barf.”)

In this era of the Internet, unproductive feedback abounds. Jaron Lanier, author of You Are Not a Gadget, explains that the anonymity we find on the Web can too easily turn people into trolls, “anonymous [people] who [are] abusive in an online environment.”

Even when a reader or critic makes his identity known, he can still hide in the internet’s vast ethersphere, saying whatever he wants in whatever unproductive language he chooses.

And it will hurt. We writers tend to have an abundance of sensors and feelers. Our porous skin absorbs everything. Our brains are wrapped in fly paper. Everything—every review or comment or rejection—sticks.

So what do we do?

1. We can stop writing.

2. We can write in an overly-safe way about overly-safe topics.

3. We can keep writing what we are meant to write, knowing with 100% certainty that we will receive hurtful feedback.

Let’s just cross off Choice #1 right now. It’s a stupid choice.  You love to write, and you need to write. Cross it off.

While you’re at it, cross off Choice #2. My parents didn’t raise a wussy. Neither did yours. Plus, safe writing is so boring, and you are not boring.

So let’s see what’s behind door #3.

Yes, the idea of rejection is scary; the reality of rejection is painful. That pain will make us wonder why on earth we choose to write, why we choose to birth words, then make them public.

But Choices #1 and #2 are unacceptable, and armor is pricey and likely creates chafing and heat rash and noise.

So how to stay in the game when readers, agents and editors are rejecting us?

I know I need three things.

The Tribe

My tribe consists of WU, my writing partners, my agent, my family, and my friend, Schmidtie, who has zero background as a fiction writer but has a PhD in cheering for Team Sarah. Schmidties and dear writing partners are rare and precious, and you cannot get them on EBay. Sorry.

My tribe mates who are authors share their empathy; they have walked a mile in my woe-is-I, rejected moccasins. My tribe makes me laugh when laughter is the best alternative. My tribe also reminds me that in certain situations, the reviewer/commenter/agent/editor is clearly crazy/ lonely/just jealous. A good tribe knows what I need, when I need it.

But I can’t rely only on my tribe. I have to sit my own tokus in the chair and tell my own story. No tribe can do that for me.

Beyond my priceless tribe, I also need to remember the goal.

The Goal

Of course I want my novels to be published. I want to make money. But those are two things over which I have very little control. Focusing my goal on my personal improvement and the pride I feel in the finished product? That I have 100% control over. That is unthwartable. And speaking of unthwartable . . .

The Faith

While it would be hysterical to show up at a café clad in full armor, holding my laptop, and order a triple no foam skim vanilla latte, our armor must be internal. It needs to come from the knowledge that we are supposed to be writing, that we are supposed to be putting our work into the hands of readers and agents and editors and blog readers.

It takes an enormous amount of faith to believe that and to keep believing that, especially as we are being rejected or mocked or given unproductive reviews.

We all must have some stubborn seed of faith in our writer’s gut. Why or how it got there may not make sense, but we need to know it is there, especially on those days when the feedback of others seems especially unsupportive.

I find my faith in my Faith, but find yours wherever you want. And make sure it’s set on stone rather than sand.

Great! Then everything will be fine?

No. Arming (and armoring) ourselves with Tribe, Goal and Faith does not make rejection feel good. But we’re not going to hide in metal because we fear rejection. Why?

Because we are brave.

Because we are not wussies.

Because we have a faith and a goal and a tribe who, when necessary, will spray our backs with Teflon.

And, because we write stories that we want to share with an audience wider than our immediate family and our cat.

What about you?  How do you protect yourself from the myriad forms of rejection? 

Do you, for example, go the route of Yuvi Zalkow (read his amazing, beautiful book!) who writes without pants? That’s exposure therapy in the most literal sense; perhaps if Yuvi can get used to the feeling of Being Exposed while writing his novels, he can get comfortable with Feeling Exposed when others are reading and reviewing his novels.

What is your equally brilliant coping strategy? What do you keep in your writer’s box of dress-ups that guards your confidence? How did you rebound after a particularly painful bit of feedback? You can’t purchase a tribe or a goal or a faith on Amazon; where did you find yours?


Photo courtesy of Flickr’s bugmonkey.



About Sarah Callender

Sarah Callender lives in Seattle with her husband, son and daughter and is currently working on a novel titled BETWEEN THE SUN AND THE ORANGES. Sarah is a terrible house-cleaner, a lover of chocolate and hats, and a self-professed cheapskate who has no trouble spending money on good chocolate and hats.


  1. Jeanne Kisacky says

    Oh Sarah, you made my day. I received rejection #infinity yesterday and was wallowing in self-despair. Now I’m heading to ebay to get the #10 set of armor, hope it has free shipping. Then I’ll use my six-year-old’s transmogrifier (cardboard box, takes up most of the living room) to turn my chain mail into the new improved 2.0 model interior armor.
    You’re right, we just have to keep on keeping on.

    • says

      Brilliant, Jeanne, to use the transmogrifier. I hadn’t even thought of that. And yes, the #10 does come with free shipping. Phew!

      The rejection stinks, that’s the bottom line. That’s why it’s so great we all have each other!

      Hang in there. We are in this for the long haul, right? Right.

  2. says

    That was a terrific post, Sarah! You’ve spoken to the very heart of a touching matter for writers. As a VERY new published author, many people have not even finished my book yet, let along reviewed it, but I know the day will come when I get some negative reviews. Let’s just hope they’re mostly from the “productive” camp. I’m not naive, though. I know some people will be nasty about my book just to be nasty. Productive negative criticism, I can work with. Before I became a writer, I was used to receiving and SEEKING constructive criticism as a teacher. Growth is imperative. I suppose part of my armor relies on the fact that I WANT to improve and fix things in my work and I would love to have things pointed out to me that I can’t see myself. However, I do suppose I would be terribly distraught at first if someone flat out blasted my website or novel without good reasons. I definitely find stability and “armor” in my Faith and Tribe and Goal. Without them, I feel a writer is wandering a dreadful dark forest without a torch.

    • says

      You are so right, L.M. I used to be a teacher, too, and I always wanted to improve. As writers we should want the same . . . and I think that’s the danger of wearing full armor: if we are so ensconced in metal, we can’t let the productive feedback in. And that, as you point out, is the very thing that allows us to grow and improve.

      When I taught high school English, I’d give a mid-year questionnaire to my students, asking them for feedback on the class. One student anonymously wrote: “I hate those ugly brown shoes you wear.”
      That was the only thing she (I assume she was female) wrote on the whole sheet.

      Yes, let us welcome productive feedback and eschew (bless you!) that which is just plain unhelpful!

  3. says

    Thanks Sarah, I needed your words of wisdom this morning. My fear of rejection and lagging confidence levels have been allowing me to cower in #1. I tiptoe around #2, when I used to write big and bold. I have my goal in sight, it just seems impossible to get there on my own. Your post is a much needed kick in the pants, reminding me that I must find my tribe.

    And I must find some of that Teflon spray—it sounds much lighter and more flexible than that weighty armor.

    • says

      Yes, Kerry. You can probably get the Teflon spray on Ebay . . . just close your eyes and hold your breath when your Tribe sprays you down.

      Gosh, isn’t is impossible to write well when we hear all of the rejection in our heads? If only we had “rejection blocking” earphones.

      Hang in there, Kerry Ann!

  4. says

    You are so right. The tribe, the goal and faith provide a solid suit of armor against the sting of rejection, especially faith. Faith in your ability is paramount. I would add to your excellent list one more thing: passion. Never let the pain of rejection diminish your passion. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  5. says

    Sarah, with this beautiful post, you’ve proven yourself to be a mighty Teflon-sprayer in your own right.

    Brene Brown, who researches shame and vulnerability, says this:

    “The authenticity paradox: Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, and the first thing I look for in you.”

    You’ve heard the term “balls to the wall”? IMHO, it would more accurately be “heart to the wall.” Your #3. There is little more compelling than willing investment for a greater purpose. It’s no surprise, then, that tribes tend to gather around people who live this way.

    Lastly, I’d pay good money to participate in a writing group that did this: “…show up at a café clad in full armor, holding my laptop, and order a triple no foam skim vanilla latte, our armor must be internal.”

    Let me know when we’ll have our first meeting. ;)

    • says

      Jan, I LOVED that quote on vulnerability. It is so true!

      And thanks so much for your response. If only you lived closer to Seattle . . . if only we could get ourselves in the same city, even just for a few days, to do the latte-armor thing. If only.


  6. says

    I had a crisis of writerly faith recently and blogged about it, and you, my friend, were one of the first ones to the scene of the melt down with your Teflon firehose. You brought a smile to my face when I didn’t think I could buy one at a fun-house mirror factory. And then others came in and manned the hoses. It was amazing. I dug my seed out of the wreckage and started again. Now that’s tribal response!

    Thanks for reminding me that I can’t wear armor as I tread out onto no-man’s land. But I can choose to don a fascade that protects my wussified writerly ego. Thanks for the laughs and the head nods and the kick in the Teflon-coated pants.

    • says

      You are no wussie, Mister Roycroft! Wussies don’t accomplish what you have already accomplished. If you were a wussy, you would not be a presence on WU. You’re just a writer, who, like all of us, are on the sensitive, tender end of the spectrum.

      And, as you are an MVP WU Tribe member, I only offered a bit of encouragement in the way that you have done for me and for many others on WU.

      What goes around, comes around. Thank goodness for this Tribe.

      Thank YOU for the laugh-ie comment, Vaughn.

  7. says

    I love the idea of internal armor (less chafing that way!) but a good outer wardrobe of bubble wrap might also be helpful and kind of fun – you could pop the bubbles and drown out the criticism. :)

    When the blues and the fears creep up on me, I look back at some of the published pieces I’m particularly proud of, or the wonderful notes and positive comments from readers and industry professionals. It’s all a great reminder that even thought I might be stalled for a moment, I’m still actually on the right track.

    • says

      Yes! Three cheers for rejection-blocking bubble popping.

      I’m also so glad you mentioned the idea of returning to “times of success.”

      I struggle to manage chronic depression, and one of my favorite mental heath advice-givers is Therese Borchard. On her blog, Beyond Blue, she often discusses the importance of having a binder or folder of positive notes, comments, feedback that we need to use when we are feeling low, worthless, etc.

      We should ALL do that . . . we should have, at the ready, a book of words that remind us we are not always going to feel like total losers. :)

      Thank you for this great comment!

  8. says

    Thank you. Thank you. Every time I feel I may as well give up now because I’m not clever/interesting/witty/skilled etc enough I will visualise myself clanking down the road in my armour, visor down holding a very large sword. Diana J Febry

    • says

      I love this comment. Thank you. Makes me giggle just to picture it!

      (And we all–every human–feel those things. Some of us are just more willing to admit it!)

  9. says

    This very subject has been on my mind all week so this post is perfect timing for me!! I, too, am a very new published author and I’ve been eagerly anticipating feedback from my book. I know not all the reviews and comments will be positive and rejection stings but I have a goal, my tribe, my faith and passion in what I’m doing – I’ve got my armor on!!

    • says

      Good for you, Holly! One of my recently-published author friends got a mean and nasty review on Good Reads (one of those totally unproductive reviews). You know what she did? Laughed. Actually, I think she said she, “Cackled like a loon.”

      I love that. May we all cackle like loons in the face of unhelpful, mean feedback!

      Congratulations on your publication!

  10. says

    This post could not have come at a better time, Sarah, as I have recently started the query process for a novel I’ve known I have poured my soul into for quite a few years. Rejections on my earlier books stung, but I knew deep down those books were only practice for this one, and so the pain was brief.

    This time around I know it will hurt more, and so I protect myself by not getting too excited when full requests come (and they have). I know from the experience of tribe mates that those requests only mean my query worked. If I don’t immediately start imagining a particular agent’s name on my acknowledgements page, I am not thrust into the depths of despair if/when that agent chooses not to be listed there.

    Another way I protect myself is to keep the requests to myself. I don’t announce them on social media. I don’t even tell my tribe unless it is something really special or if the request came from a particular tribe member’s agent. The fewer people who know about a request, the fewer times I will have to rehash the rejection when/if those come. If I’m not dwelling on the rejection, it is far easier to hit send on the next query.

  11. says

    Hi Kim,

    I will be thinking of you as you query! Such a tough and humbling process.

    I love what you wrote about not sharing the rejection with the world . . . so smart. Sometimes a blabbermouth like me shares TOO freely, and then I just feel so publicly stupid.

    Maybe the answer is to share with one-two selected tribe mates? That keeps us from getting lonely and despondent, but it keeps the rejection contained.

    Hang in there, Kim!

  12. says

    I almost feel like sharing the requests will jinx me somehow. As much as I’d love the validation of all the “likes” and “congrats” I really don’t want people later asking me whatever happened with that request only to have to put my tail between my legs and whimper!

    • says

      Ugh . . . yes, I have been there. I AM there! My agent is sending out to another group of editors this week. (But, SHHHH!) I am excited AND I am buying Teflon spray in bulk.

  13. says

    Sarah, I laughed out loud when I saw your pic of the armor because I have seriously been looking at pics of armor for the promotion of my upcoming novel, which has a musical with a knight in it. Of course being women’s fiction, it’s also symbolism for the armor we wear to protect ourselves. I was even in a local boutique this summer and they had full armor IN PINK. Of course I snapped a pic of it. It wasn’t for sale, just for show, but…how perfect?

    To answer your question, my tribe are my gals at Book End Babes (and one guy!) 19 bloggers; as well as my team and authors at Buzz Books, my agent, my husband, my Alpha Chi sisters (recently joined the alum chapter so I can force myself out into the “real world” and look across the table at something other than my pretty Mac all the time.) And I really enjoy blogs such as this one and Jane Friedman’s and occasionally social media provides more oomph than irk. As a dance mom and den mom, those are in my real world tribe, too.

    Thanks for the fun post. I do think we are often harder on ourselves than others are on us.

    • says

      You are in such good shape, Malena. You have a sense of humor and all the various protections in place.

      You also raise such a good point–the importance of doing something that is “outward” focused. I find that is essential when I am trying to keep things in perspective. Plus, doing something for others helps distract me when I am waiting to hear from agents or editors or Ed McMahon (ah, a Publishers Clearinghouse reference–that just dated me!)

      Thanks so much for the pink armor image. Love that!

  14. Kathleen Baker says

    I’m not a writer,but have to do it a lot for work. One of the hardest parts of my day is clicking on that “send” square. I suppose that builds character in all of us.

    I do know that you truly are one of the colorful people I know and you have a delightful way if looking at life. I love reading your stories and the chats we have every so often. Your journey will lead you where you need to be and as you go on that journey you tend to brighten a lot of peoples days.

    Now to click on that “post comment” square…yikes

    • says

      Kathleen! So fun to see you here . . . you are part of my tribe for sure, and I am so grateful for your encouragement.

      Thanks for being brave enough to comment along with the other writers.

  15. says

    I haven’t even begun the process yet and I’m already scared, but reading posts like this helps me remember that I’m not the only one with those fears. Thanks for the extra armor, I think we all need it every now and again!

    • says

      So true, Brooke. Any writer who isn’t a little worried about rejection either isn’t writing bravely enough OR is ensconced in an impressive suit of denial.

      We are all just muddling through, no matter what stage we find ourselves in. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!

  16. Robin Yaklin says

    Gosh, I’m back only a day from the month-long vacation (read, ah!) and here comes the message I needed. Get the uhhum in the chair. Thanks for the jump start and for addressing the underbelly of procrastination–fear. I think one of the WU folks said, “Dare to S***.” And, another said, “I can do hard things.” Both of those are written on scraps of paper and taped above my computer. Looking at them as we speak. The ‘special’ of this group is that it faces difficult things, breaks them down, and supports each other. What a group!

    • says

      I loved this comment, Robin. Those are two of the best things to have taped to the wall. Frankly, they should be taped all over all of our walls.

      Enjoy the reentry . . . a month-long vacation sounds dreamy. I hope it was grand!

  17. says


    This is a fabulous post (and I promise I’m not just saying that because you have me pantsless in it).

    I love that you explicitly present that list of three possible ways to handle the situation. One thing that I find fascinating is that during every crisis point, over and over again, some part of me truly considers going the road of option #1 (quit) and option #2 (overly safe)… and then I have to stop myself and give myself a little pep talk and then I get back on the road of option #3 (also with help of tribe or faith). Usually this talk involves convincing myself that even if I’m stumbling and fumbling a lot, there’s still a chance I can find a particular way to tell a story that will matter in some way to others.

    Thank you for this post.

    • says

      Yep. I’m so glad you mentioned that last part, about YOU being the only one who can tell the story in one particular way. That is true for us all.

      Thanks for letting all of us unpublished folks know that even the published (maybe especially the published) feel all of this too!

      Yes, I have you pantsless here, but are you ever NOT pantsless? Don’t answer that.

  18. says

    I had a big case of the rejection blues yesterday and this post is absolutely what I need. Thanks! Now I’m off to ebay to buy some Teflon spray and I’m ready.

  19. says

    Love this post, Sarah!

    I’ve also had my share of option #1 and #2 moments. It’s hard to be vulnerable; no one wants to walk across a field of potential landmines. This will sound trite, but I think my coping skills have evolved a bit because of experience; it’s that old “what doesn’t kill you” wisdom. You find the avenue your emotions need to take to ease that horrid feeling rejection brings, and you revisit it again and again, until it’s automatic. There are still plenty of potholes on that road, and they still rattle your brain when you hit them, but they’re anticipated.

    I’m so glad you’re a part of the WU tribe and that you feel safe here, despite the fact that your essays are out there in the wide world and can be criticized. You are so very appreciated, Sarah–your thoughts, your way with words, and your time.

    Write on, right?

    • says

      Thanks, Therese, for sharing the wisdom that comes with experience. Yes, what doesn’t kill us!

      WU is a life-saver to me. Sure, our posts can be criticized, but it’s all good practice for LIFE, and the community is like no other. You and Kathleen have created this.

      Write on, indeed!

  20. Denise Willson says

    Buy the armor, Sarah, it couldn’t hurt.

    When I’m feeling beat upon, I listen to my daughter’s Taylor Swift CD. Yes, I said Taylor Swift. One song in particular: Mean, is all about her reaction to a particularly nasty critic.

    “You, with your words like knives and swords and weapons that you use against me. You, knocked me off my feet again, got me feeling like a nothing. But you don’t know what you don’t know….”

    It’s liberating. Try it. Dance around with reckless abandon. With or without your armor on. :)

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth

    • says

      Fabulous! It’s the equivalent of the break up songs we play/played when soul mates dumped us.

      I will check it out. My kids LOVE making fun of me, mid-dance.

      Thanks so much for the lovely comment, Denise.!

  21. says

    Great post– nice to feel the bond with writers, even if it’s a type we don’t prefer. It IS scary, but to walk away is not, as you pointed out, an option.

    The rejection pile is thick and I still feel a big “ooff” as if someone has knocked he air out of me when I get one. The acceptance pile is thin, but oh what joy and jubilation when it comes.

    Thanks for the encouragement to keep on.

    • says

      That is the perfect description, Julie: getting the air knocked right out of us. When that happens, we lose our breath, our footing, our confidence.

      But, just like when we get our wind knocked out, suddenly our breath comes back. What a relief!

      Happy writing to you, Julie.

    • says

      That’s right, Mari. It’s one of the things I love most about The Little Grape: you aren’t scared to say the hard stuff.

      Also true about not being able to please everyone. But that’s so hard for me to accept. Let me know if you have any magic ways of actually believing the truth of that!


  22. says

    For me, I have to say the Serenity Prayer, reminding myself that other people’s reactions fall under the “accept the things I cannot change” part of the prayer, whereas my efforts fall into the “change the things I can” part.

  23. says

    Wonderful post about the dreaded “R” word. I hope I’m not a wussy, but sometimes I definitely withdraw to get a new battle plan. I think my biggest tendency when I keep getting rejected is to say “Oh yeah? Well, just you wait.” Of course, there’s that part inside that says “What if they’re waiting a long time, because you do suck!” It’s hard to turn that nasty little voice off, but necessary if we’re going to remain true to ourselves. Thanks for the lovely reminder.

    • says

      Yes. The Voice in My Head.

      I found that naming him (in my case, “Ron”) helps me to see that he’s just an insecure, whiny sniveler. “Oh, shut up, Ron!” I like to say to him.

      You’re not even 1% wussy if you do the “Just you wait!” speech. I think that changing the course is often what we all must do . . . nothing wussish about that.

      Thanks so much, Lara, for your comment. Happy writing!

  24. says

    Can’t tell you how much I love this post. I think I’ve been guilty of #2 (playing it too safe) without being able to name it until now.

    • says

      Oh, I do that too, Nina! It’s so hard not to . . . especially right after we’ve been a bit burned.

      I’m guilty of the, “OK, but when so-and-so reads this, will she think that’s stupid?”

      Ugh. I know I cannot win when I let that happen, but I still do it.

      We are all Works In Progress as we work on our Works In Progress.

  25. says

    Dancing to Taylor Swift sounds fun, but when I get a bad review I just toss it back with the good ones. Some make me laugh (apparently one of my 2-star reviewers on Amazon thinks I’m a racist). But mostly I keep it in perspective; as said above, you can’t please everybody. If four out of five who read your book consider it a positive experience, you’ve done your work well.

    • says

      Thanks, Marion, for the perspective. Brilliant are those writers who let the negative (or the allegations of racism!) rolls off their backs.

      Such a good reminder that it’s impossible to reach or please everyone. Thank you!

  26. says

    I’ll keep this simple: Your post is excellent. You’ve captured so much of the beautiful anguish of this path — and managed to do it with grace and humor. Thank you. :)

  27. says

    Sarah, you’ve persuaded me. I shan’t buy the suit of armour after all. I found your post enlightening, useful and reassuring. Thanks for writing it. I think many writers persist because, like artists, they need to engage in the business of the craft. Rejection is everything you say it is and broadly speaking, much of it boils down to readers who don’t “get” the writer’s message. We persist, I think, because we hope one day to find those readers who tune into our way of thinking. Having said that, some revenue would be nice, too.

    • says

      You’re darn right some revenue would be nice! :)

      I love that you used “persist” a few times in your comment because that’s the word we must focus on: persistence. It’s that persistence that will help us grow and improve, and as we do, perhaps we can “reach” more readers.

      Thank you for that wisdom!

  28. says

    I just keep writing . . . and in the quiet moments, I don’t jump off a cliff, or don’t do as I sometimes whine “after this book, I’m not doing this anymore – it’s haaaaaarrrrd,” because I will do it – again and again until I don’t.

    And, I never read reviews unless my editor at my publishers, or a good friend, or the reviewer, sends one to me and says, “You should read this!” The reviews are not for me. Why torture myself? I know me – I’ll focus on the negative and it will gnaw at me like a starving bastard rat.

    I can also tell you from one who has to send out rejections (for Rose & Thorn Journal) that while it sucks to receive them, it hurts me to my core to send them. Because I’m a writer, because I have been on the receiving end, I can visually and viscerally picture the writer at the other end of my email . . . it’s the worst part of my job there. And yes, sometimes we have to reject really good writers. And guess what else? Sometimes we make mistakes – sometimes I will think, after it is too late, “I let go of a a really good story . . .”

    • says

      Thank you, Kathryn, for the perspective of being on the other side of rejection.

      I also admire your decision to ignore all but a few reviews. That is the route I will need to go, but your point, “Those reviews are not for me.” is brilliant. You are right! Those are for the readers.

      Thank you for such an insightful, helpful comment.

  29. Linda Pennell says

    Well said! I agree that it is very important to have a plan to deal with the multiple rejections that come to most authors. After all, if a blockbuster like The Help got rejected a reported 65 times, what does the querying life hold for the rest of us? YIKES! For me, it actually spurs me to keep writing. If a book of that magnitude goes begging for so long, then there’s hope for all of us, whatever the final route to publication one takes. And the good news is that if one door closes too often, then there are others upon which to knock. The key is, as you said, to have a plan. As with most things in life, “luck” requires a lot of planning, preparation, perspiration, and persistence.

    • says

      So true, Linda! I was just consoling myself with those “mass failures” that Kathryn Stockett experienced. I think J.K. Rowling had some similar bumps on her road to publication.

      Just shows that tenacity is so much more important than armor! Thanks so much for the comment.

  30. says

    I entirely love this. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I cope with rejection by laughing. A lot. And doing a lot of pretending. It’s a sort of faith–seeing the things you want and hoping one day they’ll overlap.

    • says

      Gosh, Sarah, I love your line about faith. So true. That’s faith for sure!

      I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. Best of luck in your hard work and hoping!

  31. says

    Along with so many others, let me tell you that you made MY day as well. I have faith in FAITH and that’s what drives me and keeps me driven every single day. I believe my writing is worthy of others reading it. So I continue.
    This totally starts my day off well!
    Thank you.

  32. says

    I love your insightful, humorous posts, Sarah. I find the querying process just that: a process where I learn and tweak as I go along.
    There’s many rungs on the ladder of success, right?

    • says

      Gosh, this is so true, Cindy. I love your ladder analogy. I think my ladder is one of those massive wide rope/net ladders like they have at playgrounds . . . sometimes I have found myself moving in a lateral fashion before I can move to a higher foothold.

      Thank you so much for your compliments. It’s an honor to be able to write here!

  33. Tony Shen says

    Great post Sarah! Why does negative or even indifferent feedback on creative pursuits hurt more than for so many other things? I suppose it’s the combination of actually caring about the creation (as opposed to, say, an excel spreadsheet created for the boss) and insecurity. We spend most of life perfecting, receiving feedback on, and learning to receive feedback on non-creative professional pursuits. Surviving teen-hood is boot camp for weathering withering personal and social attacks. Then there’s this aspect of ourselves (creativity) that maybe hasn’t benefited from years and years of development, learning to accept or reject feedback and, importantly, validation. Validation in offices builds over years as we persist in jobs, are hired, don’t get fired, receive accolades and thanks from co-workers, and get promotions. Validation in the social sphere consists of strong relationships, feeling comfortable as ourselves, and having people call on your birthday. Validation in writing or creative pursuits consists of…. silence. Or rejection. There are thankfully encouraging and kind words from supporters (our tribe), but sometimes these feel biased. Our supporters know they are supposed to say we’re great. But what do they really think? And what does the audience who doesn’t already love us for reasons having nothing to do with our creations think?

    Well, to paraphrase Sarah Callender, haters be hating but that aint sh** to me.

    • says

      Such a great comment, Tony. Thank you! I loved what you said about our tribe being biased. I actually had a line about that in this post (but I had to cut it, among other things, so I wouldn’t write a 47K word post).

      A few weeks ago, I was in a “low” point, self-esteem-wise. I was talking to my mom, and she said, “Sarah, you are a good writer.” I was like, “Blech. Phhhhhhft! You HAVE to say that. And PS, if you were going to give me a bogus, biased, obligatory compliment, couldn’t you at least say, ‘Sarah, you are a GREAT writer.’?!?!”

      See? We need to make sure our mothers aren’t the only members of our tribes. It would irritate us, and they simply cannot win.

      As for your comment about whether we love art more when we know (and like) the artist, I wonder about that often. When I read the book of an author friend, I know it’s impossible for me to not insert everything I love about them into their art. That’s why I am sending every person in the world a big batch of cookies before they read my book. ;)

      Thanks, Tony!

  34. says


    Thank you for noticing my tokus.

    I hadn’t realized you’d been over at my place, stalking me.

    And yet, I’m so glad to know you have.


    That’s not what you were talking about?

    I’m sorry.

    I was taking a risk and hoping you would notice me and my words.

    And my tokus.

    Great analogy. My armor is off. But my book isn’t ready. It just isn’t. But it will be.



    I think my coping mechanism is that I don’t need to write for the money.

    I’m a teacher and my husband is the primary bread winner. We have one kid. We’re fine. I just want to produce a quality product.

    • says

      I love this, Renee! Thank you for brightening my day with your witty response.

      Yes, that does take the pressure off (knowing that you already have TWO full time jobs–teaching and parenting) and have food on the table. I love that you care so much about the product, rather than the possibility of a huge commercial success.

      Best of luck, funny lady!

  35. says

    Yep, your sincere intentions, your deepest beliefs, and your fondest wishes will be mocked, belittled, ignored, criticized. And it hurts! Thanks for reminders on why we should keep dealing with the hurt rather than trying to avoid it at all costs.

    • says

      Thanks, Carleen. And if YOU say it hurts, then we novice writers know that experience and success doesn’t make the hurt feel any worse. It’s good to know . . . so that we don’t think, “Well, when my book gets published, nothing can hurt me!”

      Thank you, dear Carleen!

  36. says

    I found this to be extremely inspiring and honest. Sometimes I feel like the only other person who could possibly understand me is another writer, someone brave enough to say the things I can’t say.

    I am not a published writer, and I don’t hold out much hope of ever becoming one, but writing is what I enjoy most in the world. All I strive for is to be proud of what I write, and that feeling of accomplishment is worth any ridicule and negativity. It’s just hard to remember that when the last time I felt accomplished and proud seems so far away.

  37. says

    Wow. Your comment, Jaime, really spoke to me. Writing is such a strange endeavor that yes, I know what you mean when you feel that no one (besides another writer) can know what it feels like. Hooray for communities like Writer Unboxed!

    If there is one thing I have learned in the last decade, it is this: passion and hard work and tenacity pave the road to publication. Don’t take yourself out of the game yet!

  38. Rayleen says

    Hello to all you writers in this round-table exchange. such valuable stuff you share. Great life thoughts laced with humor and common sense. Im not a writer but a new reader who is bound to be a follower- especially of Sarahs charming compositions. Merci bien.