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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

How the Desire to Be “Rejection-Proof” Blocked My Novel

rejection4Between 2006 and 2008, I sent queries for my novel The Essential Path to 27 agents. I got 26 letters declining the opportunity to represent me; one didn’t bother to reply.

In the middle of this exercise in rejection, I started work on what is now Around the Writer’s Block, perhaps unconsciously looking for a solution to the resistance I was starting to feel about my novel.

I came to the conclusion that my novel needed a major revision. Trouble was, I didn’t know where to begin. So I abandoned it.

I didn’t admit to myself that I was abandoning the novel. I told myself it was too difficult to divide my attention between two book-length projects. In hindsight, it was too painful to spend time in the uncertainty of what to do with the novel.

I told myself I needed to pick one book to focus on. Of course I picked the nonfiction book, the perfect-in-potentiality, not-yet-rejected book.

dejected canstockphoto2065099 (2)Many of the reasons I picked AWB were practical and well-reasoned. But the one reason that made me flinch and look away was the fear of being rejected more.

Not that the novel would be rejected more; that I would be rejected more. I couldn’t figure out how to make the novel perfect and thus make myself rejection-proof.

Of course, it’s impossible to make a novel perfect or for a writer to be beyond rejection. It was completely illogical, which is why I looked away, why I focused on the logical reasons to “put my novel on the shelf for now.”

At first, “for now” meant until I finished the book proposal. While I polished the proposal, I wrote a novella, got an inspiration for revamping those characters into a bigger story, and ended up slipping that on the shelf next to my novel.

Then “for now” became until I found an agent; then until I finished writing AWB and sent it to my editor. At the moment, my fiction is “on the shelf while I’m promoting AWB.”

Who knows how long The Essential Path could have gathered dust on the shelf in my office if I hadn’t read Daring Greatly by Dr. Brené Brown. I’ll explain how Daring Greatly destroyed my illusion that I don’t “do perfectionism” any more in the next post.

For now, I’ll leave you with this, the inspiration for Dr. Brown’s book:

“It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is married by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. – Theodore Roosevelt

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10 Comments on “How the Desire to Be “Rejection-Proof” Blocked My Novel”

  1. enabujik@gmail.com December 17, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    thank you


  2. Joel D Canfield September 25, 2013 at 11:27 am #


    Must be something in the midwest air.

    Synchronicity indeed.

    I’ve been pushing myself toward fiction. Making great progress, by the way. But I’ve got a non-fiction book stuck in my craw and it’s gonna come out whether I like it or not.


  3. Angela Foster September 25, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Oh, so that’s why I did that. hmm…


    • rosannebane September 25, 2013 at 10:32 am #

      You too Angela? I’m in good company then. Thanks. Stay tuned for the next bit!



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