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The Positive Power of Rejection

No. It’s quite possibly the first word you learn as a baby, only surpassed in popularity by mama or dada. The word is not impressive; it's just two letters strung together. Simple enough for a toddler to master, yet the meaning behind it is exponential. The one syllable word will colour and alter your existence for the rest of your life. The word no introduces the concept of limitations and the possibility that somethings are off limits.

Try convincing a fussy two-year old to eat his vegetables and you’ll encounter the word on repeat. As a child, I confronted many no's. No throwing food. No shoving your sister. No singing at the table. No running into the elevator without a parent. At school the no’s continued. No, you can’t poke Jimmy in the eye with a navy crayon; it won’t turn his eyes blue. No talking during story time, even though your version of the tale is much more exciting. No jumping. No yelling. No running with scissors. While no’s are frustrating, those that pepper childhood and adolescence are there to protect you or others, to establish rules and order, or to ensure fairness. Remember, no cutting in line.

As you get older the no’s change from rules for safety and fairness, to an internal monologue telling you all the things you can’t do. There’s no way you can learn to play the cello. It’s difficult and you’re too old anyway. Why even bother. You’re never going to be able to sing that solo. Best to not audition for the choir. You’ll never get that job; it’s not worth even applying. Published author? Are you crazy. That’s never going to happen.

For the author, when you have surmounted your own questions of self-doubt, there are the following rejection letters and e-mails. “We’re sorry but your work is not what we’re looking for at this time. Thank you for submitting.” The writer exists in a world of negative reactions. A world of no’s … and that’s a good thing.

“What?” You may say. “How on earth is being told no, over and over, and being separated from your dream a good thing? It’s good because it creates perseverance and learning. There are two things you can do when given a limitation. One, you can accept it and walk away or two, you can learn from the experience and keep trying. All of the rejections and limitations you will encounter as a writer are opportunities for you to learn from your mistakes, to improve as an author, to take feedback and grow, and to build your persistence. Writing is never easy, and few and far between are the stories of instant publication after your first submission. Hearing “no” helps you learn to deal with negative responses and pushes you to examine your own work with a sharp eye to improve your writing for next time. No, test whether you really want to do this for a living or even a hobby and challenges your endurance. No, gives you something to fight for and makes the success at the end that much sweeter. No, allows you to empathise with others who are struggling and encourage them on their writing journey. In the end, the word “no” gives you more than it takes away. It gives you the chance to improve as a person and a writer, and that alone is worth the frustration in my book.

Keep writing.

C.L. Shoemaker

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