The Rejection Badge of Courage

I have been asked to write a post on the “Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing.” I wish the blog powers-that-be would have given me a topic I know something about.

I’m kidding. I’m a kidder.

Actually, if degrees were given for Emotional Highs and Lows of Writing, I would have a doctorate. If awards were given, I would have an Oscar. If money was doled out based on those highs and lows, I would be a zillionaire.

When I first started writing as a calling, it was pure bliss. The exhilaration of putting words on the page and finishing a piece was wonderful. Then I decided to try to get some of those pieces published.

Well, hello, emotional lows.

In those early days, I got enough rejections to wallpaper my house. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. And I have been rejected by the absolute BEST in Christian publishing.

Top-tier agents? Major publishing houses? Publishing companies in someone’s basement? Been turned down by all of them.

You can only be rejected so many times until you question yourself and your abilities. Yes, I have heard all the encouragement about rejection—it’s just not your time, your piece didn’t match their needs, it’s not a reflection of your talent. All true, but rejection still hurts.

Slowly but surely, I began getting acceptances. One year I had multiple devotions published in four different books. What an emotional high!

The next year? The lady who does my taxes asked, “Don’t you have any receipts from your writing?” I buried my chin in my chest and answered with a quiet, “No . . . but I’m trying.”

A couple of months after that encounter, I was preparing to attend a big writers conference. I had been preoccupied with my day job and found myself scrambling the week before the event to put together writing samples, one-sheets, and anything and everything else I thought I would need. I stopped for a moment and asked myself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this?”

My agent was pitching several book proposals, with no word from anyone. Shouldn’t I just quit? Give up? Go fishing instead of to the writers conference?

I actually hate fishing, so I went to the conference, with the idea that I would cut up with my writer friends and maybe talk to some editors/publishers just for fun.

The second day of the conference, I got a call from my agent, telling me he had gotten a serious inquiry from a well-established publishing house about one of my book proposals. I had been on this roller coaster before, so I kept my emotions in check.

Another day passed, another call from my agent. “It’s looking good, but it still has to go to committee.” I wanted so much to get excited, but I suppressed those happy feelings.

The conference ended and I began the three-hour trek home, winding my way through a mountainous area with spotty cell service. Once I hit “civilization,” I stopped at a store to stretch my legs. I checked my phone and saw I had a missed call from my agent. I returned the call.

“We’re in! We’re getting a contract!”

I restrained myself from doing a happy dance in the middle of Wal-Mart.

That book, Adventures in Fatherhood (co-authored with Holland Webb), releases April 7. Proof that God is good and that there is hope in the middle of the highs and lows.

Hang in there, writer friends. It will happen.

Click-to-Tweet: Rejection hurts! “You can only be rejected so many times until you question yourself and your abilities.” The Rejection Badge of Courage – @carltonwhughes via @InspiredPrompt #writerslife #amwriting

Writing Prompt: Start a story using these three words: sunset, shovel, hardhat.


Carlton Hughes

Carlton Hughes, represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary, wears many hats. By day, he is a professor of communication. On Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings, he serves as a children’s pastor. Carlton is an empty-nesting dad and devoted husband who likes long walks on the beach, old sitcoms, and chocolate–all the chocolate. His work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game, The Wonders of Nature, Let the Earth Rejoice, Just Breathe, So God Made a Dog, and Everyday Grace for Men. His latest book, Adventures in Fatherhood, co-authored with Holland Webb, releases April 7.

5 thoughts on “The Rejection Badge of Courage

  1. Carlton, this statement of yours is so true: “You can only be rejected so many times until you question yourself and your abilities.” How often have I been in that place? But then something comes along to help me stay the course. An acceptance of some sort that keeps me working. Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you didn’t quit!

  2. So glad you skipped the fishing and came to conference! Dwayne and I are so proud of our bestie from Blue Ridge. Oh yeah, and our other bestie Connie, is also happy with your success. Sure hope we still get to have conference, if not in May, at least sometime this year.

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