Writing and Rejection

I was going through some things the other day and came across what we used to call a SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). It’s something we writers used to include when we sent out our manuscripts in the days before email. First, you sent a query letter outlining your article (with a SASE enclosed). After a few weeks (or even months) an editor would send a reply in the envelope you had enclosed. Sometimes they wanted to see your piece. More often they did not.

If the editor was interested, you sent the manuscript, in a larger envelope (with a SASE enclosed). After a few weeks (or even months) an editor would send a reply. If the news was good, the reply would come on their own stationery and in one of their own envelopes. If it wasn’t, you got your own envelope back along with the manuscript. I don’t know what they did with the stamps. Most of the time the news was bad.

I had forgotten how long the process took. I haven’t forgotten how bad the rejection felt. It was like asking someone out on a date and being turned down. Or perhaps more accurately, it was like proposing and hearing your intended say no. Curtly. Without any real explanation. Except for that expression on her face which seemed to say, “As if!”

The experience of rejection was soul crushing. I felt embarrassed every time. I wondered if I was foolish to think that I could be published. Determined to never put myself in such a vulnerable position again, I vowed to give up writing. My resolve usually lasted for a few months. Sometimes for a whole year. Then at some point, an idea would come to me. Well, maybe this time. . . .

The envelope I found the other day was postmarked, open, and empty. It would have brought a rejection. I don’t know where I sent it or what kind of manuscript it contained. But I am sure that I sent it with great expectation, certain that the editor would want to publish my words.

I suppose there are other professions whose practitioners experience just as much rejection as writers. Movie stars, professional athletes, and people who run for president (or get elected) come to mind. But I’ve never wanted to be any of those. Not really. I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

7 thoughts on “Writing and Rejection”

  1. John, nice to know that someone else has experienced these feelings. My “Havens of Hope” book will be released in April and I’ll be sure to send you a copy. I am now teaching 38 students in the PS6607 Professional Ethics class online! What a blessing.

  2. I’ve wondered where such resiliency and persistence comes from that gives one the strength to pick oneself up, dust off the effects of the rejection and go right back into the fray. And I’ve hypothesized that it comes with the calling and the abilities God gives you to pursue who He created you to be.
    And I’ve enjoyed Him creating you to be a writer.
    Another good article.

    1. Thank you, Junias. I think you are right that this kind of persistence is a mark of calling. Unfortunately, sometimes it is also the mark of a fool (or at least someone who is not self-aware enough to know what they shouldn’t be doing). 🙂 In the end, I think it is God’s grace that keeps us moving forward in the midst of rejection and discouragement.

  3. I have been so blessed by your raw expressive truthfulness and candid writing. I’m so very happy God hemmed you in with an obedience towards it.

  4. Good Evening, Professor Koessler. I’m a Moody Distance Learning student and a military missionary. I’m pursuing a BS in Ministry Leadership in order to help bridge the gap between the active duty military community and the local church. I teach out of my home, in our military living room, in order to build a faith community- and eventually plant a church. I just read your book “Folly, Grace, and Power” and I watched a few of your lectures on Youtube (which is how I found your blog). I can’t tell you how encouraged I am, not only by your book, but also in your passion for equipping teachers and preachers. Thank you! Sometimes, this ministry can be so difficult and hard to do. There are so many who have not heard the gospel, most have never even owned a Bible, so I am constantly overwhelmed with the task of delivering His truths to a group of people who have no context for knowing Him. Thank you again for all that you do and the resources that you create. They have brought me great peace and an abiding confidence that “He who began a good work” will bring it to fruition.

    1. Thank you for your kind encouragement, Megan. And for your strategic ministry! God is doing a work in the military. Those into whose lives you build go all over the world to reach others. Only eternity will show the true extent of what God has done!

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