Row Your Boat

People who’ve lost a loved one say grief is a process. Rejection is like that, too. When one of those bad news emails lands in my inbox, I work my way through the writer’s stages of grief.

First, I turn to my good friends Godiva, Lindt, and Hershey. I tell my husband and one kind friend. Then I turn to my writing buddies.

My writing buddies have also been rejected more times than they can count. And they know rejection doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer with a bad book. It means my book wasn’t right for that person at that particular time.

They need to remind me of this, because after the chocolate wears off, I start to tell myself I was rejected because I’m saddled with a dream I don’t have the talent to make come true.

People tell us dreams are good. You’ve seen the cards and t-shirts.

Believe in your Dreams
Dream Big!
Make all your Dreams Come True!

Whatever, Oprah.

Strip away the unicorns and glitter hearts, and you’ll notice that dreams have a dark side, and it’s called rejection.

Maybe it’s your dream to be a president, or a prime minister. But if you run and lose, you have to live with the knowledge that you’ve been rejected by an entire country. That’s harsh.

Like so many of us, I didn’t want this dream. I didn’t ask for it. But there it is inside me anyway, kind of like a flu virus. Or a really bad cold.

Because our dreams live deep inside us, with their roots entwined around our hearts and minds, we can’t remove them. Cut them out and we excise our passions and ideas. And who wants to live like that? The only thing worse than having a dream is not having a dream.

In the end, dreams are sort of like bad roommates who leave dirty dishes in the sink and don’t pay their rent on time. They’re difficult, but we have to find a way to live with them anyway.

In my case, that means doing everything in my power to make my dream come true. It means not giving up.

When the chocolate is gone, I go to and remind myself that Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times. I re-read the inspirational quotes hanging all over my office.

They range from the profane:

“Be prepared to fail over and over again. Embrace the suck. Talent is good, but tenacity is better.”

To the divine:

“For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

And I remind myself that it takes an average of ten years for a first-time author to be published. The debut novel you see in the bookstore may be the fifth or sixth or seventh manuscript that author wrote. You don’t see those other attempts because they were rejected long before they got anywhere near Barnes and Noble.

I started this adventure about four years ago. So, if I’m average, I only have six years of rejection left!!! But it could take longer. Or I could get an offer tomorrow. I don’t know, and I can’t control it. I can only take classes and constructive criticism, keep growing and learning and most importantly, keep writing.

A wise friend once told me, “God doesn’t row.” She explained that the higher power running the universe steers the boat and controls the direction and the destination of the journey. But I have to row the boat and do the work. Only I can propel my boat forward.

So that’s what I’m doing now. Pulling the oars. Plugging away. One word in front of the other. Doing what I love because I love it. And because for whatever reason, this is my dream.

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