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Rejecting Rejection: Twenty Years of Chasing the Writer’s Dream

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Bill LamptonWhen I finished college, I fully expected that within five years I would become a widely published writer. In high school, I wrote a popular satirical column--“Orchids and Onions”-- for the school newspaper, every week for two years. In college, I edited the yearbook. Literature courses entranced me, and while other students complained about essay assignments, I reveled in them.

Writing was enjoyable, not at all like work. So I was willing to devote large chunks of time to writing and learning about writing. I read constantly, took a creative writing class at night, and started submitting articles to newspapers and magazines.

To my surprise, the process became tedious, tiresome--and fruitless. Some writers endure rejections for five years, some for ten or more. My struggle lasted twenty years. Imagine... two decades of being absolutely sure that my work merited publication, yet facing denial from dozens of editors.

Many hours banging away on manual typewriters and many mailings generated many letters back with the standard denial sentences: “Your material is not quite right for us at this time.” “We are returning your submission, and trust you will find a publisher elsewhere.” “Our editorial board agrees that your manuscript does not meet our needs.”

Eventually, I quipped to my wife, “I’ve saved enough rejection slips to wallpaper a room.” Doggedly, I continued to write. I kept believing that I had ideas worth sharing, and that readers would respond positively.

Now picture a small town in Kansas. The year: 1976. I wrote “Twentieth Anniversary Thoughts,” describing how college life had changed since I had graduated two decades previously. Methodically, I sent the article to fourteen editors. My record remained unchanged when the first twelve sent their declines.

All my life, I’ll remember how I felt when letters arrived from two magazine editors on the same day, representing College Today and College Board Review. Each editor wanted the article. To my delight, each included a check for $100. In 1976, a check for that amount was noteworthy for novice writers.

I was glad I had not given up. Without patience, without the resilience that helped me bounce back from scores of rejections, I would have missed that moment of celebration.

I had endured an agonizingly long apprenticeship. Now, with two editors confirming my writing talent, I was confident that other successes would follow. More than twenty-five years later, I can testify that they did. To mention a few:

  • I wrote a regular bylined column for newspapers in three cities I lived in.

  • For fourteen years, Fund Raising Management ran my column.

  • Magazines published my work: Rotarian, Competitive Edge, Toastmaster.

  • I have taught creative writing classes for a college’s continuing education program.

  • Four aspiring writers hired me as their writing coach.

  • Hillsboro Press published my book, The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication, Change Your Life!

  • Cosmopolitan, Entrepreneur, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Investor’s Business Daily and other publications quote me as a communication authority.

I share my story with the hope that other struggling writers will endure editors who send discouraging comments, agents who decline to represent you, family members and friends who think you’re wasting your time. Arm yourself with the never-quit attitude. Keep learning, keep writing, and keep hoping. The day your byline accompanies an article or your name adorns a book jacket, you’ll know that your resilience, faith, and adherence to the basic requirements were gloriously worthwhile.

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., helps organizations achieve CPR--Cooperation, Productivity, Renewal of mission. He gives presentations internationally in communication, sales, customer service, and motivation. Check his Web site: and E-mail him: drbill[at]

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