Photo by Alex E. Proimos

photo by Alex E. Proimos

Somebody will tell you no.

It’s going to happen. It has probably happened already. It might happen today, or tomorrow, or every day next week and then some. Maybe it happened five minutes ago and the pain is still searingly fresh, or maybe it’s on its way, looming dark and ugly on the horizon, five minutes from now.

Somebody will tell you no.

It could be any one of a thousand people, for any one of a thousand reasons. The magazine editor doesn’t give you the assignment. The journal doesn’t accept your short story. Your beta reader breaks the news to you, gently, that your work-in-progress isn’t compelling in the way it needs to be. The agent doesn’t think your edits have made the book better, only different. The editor can’t convince the publisher to make an offer. The famous author doesn’t give your book a blurb. The papers don’t review you. The sales just aren’t where they should be. The award committee chooses someone else. The agent says no. The publisher says no. Barnes & Noble says no. The readers say no. The little voice in the back of your head says no, as much as you wish it didn’t, as much as you try to drown it out with your confident internal yes.

Somebody will tell you no.

Some days it feels like the world is wallpapered with nothing but no. Like there will never be anything but rejection. The worst of it is, no is a renewable resource. There are always more nos out there.

And what do you do with that? It’s up to you.

Some writers will counsel you to turn every no into a yes, but that isn’t really how it works. Some nos are temporary, but others are permanent. Not every story will find a home. Your dream agent may remain always and forever a dream. Not every writer gets published. Not every book finds its readers or earns out its advance. Not every writer who sells a first book sells a second one. Even a yes can be followed up by no, surrounded by no, overwhelmed by no.

Depressing? It doesn’t have to be.

Because as many nos as there are in the world, that isn’t all that’s out there. No isn’t the answer to every question.

The only way that no ends your journey is if you let it. If you stop at no. So don’t stop. Keep going. Keep learning. Keep writing. Hone your craft. Expand your reach. Get better and do better, and keep asking. There are other stories. Other agents. Other publishers. Other readers. Other books. If you’re smart and motivated, you’re already headed toward it. There’s no telling which direction it’ll come from, who will say it, what question it’ll be answering, but it is most certainly out there, maybe just over the horizon.

Somebody will tell you yes.


About Jael McHenry

Jael McHenry is the debut author of The Kitchen Daughter (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books, April 12, 2011). Her work has appeared in publications such as the North American Review, Indiana Review, and the Graduate Review at American University, where she earned her MFA in Creative Writing. You can read more about Jael and her book at or follow her on Twitter at @jaelmchenry.