My wife, Sheila, is not just a writer she is a very good writer. She has published lots of articles and is in tons of anthologies but she hasn’t been able to get a book published yet. I have to tell living with a writer is a lesson in dealing with rejection. It is easy to become discouraged.
A fifty-something writer had written a manuscript for a book and sent it to publisher after publisher without success. He grew so discouraged by all the rejections that he threw the manuscript into the wastepaper basket. As his wife tried to salvage the manuscript, he told her sternly. “We’ve wasted enough time on this book. No one wants it. I’m through with it. I forbid you to remove it from the wastebasket!”
Well, if you had been married as long as I have you would know how well forbidding your spouse to do something works! She wanted to obey her husband but she ultimately decided that this manuscript had to be seen by at least one more publisher. They lived in New York City so she made an appointment with a prominent publisher through a contact she met in church. She arrived at that publisher’s office with a most unusual looking package. She tore away a covering of brown paper from the cylindrical package and underneath it was her husband’s wastepaper basket still holding his manuscript. She told the publisher that her husband had thrown his manuscript into the wastepaper basket and forbidden her to get it out. Her reasoning was that she would not technically be going against her husband’s wishes if she did not retrieve the manuscript herself so she asked the publisher to retrieve it for her. He did. He read it. He loved it. He published it.
The writer in this story is Norman Vincent Peale; the manuscript was The Power of Positive Thinking. The book that Peale tossed in the trashcan eventually sold 30 million copies.
It’s hard to imagine that the grandfather of the Positive Thinking Movement was ready to give up on the book that launched his career – but he was. I read this story when I’m ready to throw in the towel. I share this story with Sheila when she feels like throwing in the towel. It is an ironic reminder that no one is immune to discouragement! Everyone wants to throw in the towel on occasion. Fortunately for Norman Vincent Peale, Ruth Peale knew Galatians 6:9:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest IF WE DO NOT GIVE UP.”
When our efforts don’t yield immediate results, we may be tempted to call it quits. Paul reminds us not to focus on the results, but to focus instead on the process of doing good. What a difference that makes! Most of my discouragement comes when I am so focused on the destination that I forget to enjoy the journey. The joy is in the journey!
If we do not give up….if we do not become weary in doing good…if we focus on the work…if we do not stop writing (or doing whatever has been given you to do) we have the assurance from God’s word that ultimately we will reap the harvest.
What makes you want to throw in the towel? Whatever it is, I hope you have a Ruth Peale in your life that picks up the towel and brings the harvest!
2 thoughts on “Dealing With Discouragement”
This is timely for me, as I’m putting the finishing touches on the marketing materials & Web sites for my first book, which I’ve just finished producing and publishing.
When I finished writing it years ago, I sent maybe 40 blind letters, and hearing no interest, I decided to get back into the workforce and feel useful again.
This time, I have a different philosophy. I’m being active on the one hand (the book is now on Amazon, with a Kindle version and the sequel coming soon–(I’ll mail your copy in a month or so)) but on the other hand, once these are complete, I’m going to start querying agents again. In thinking of that process, I’ve somehow linked Braveheart to the exercise.
It occurred to me a few weeks ago that there is perhaps no greater rejection than a stranger objectifying you as a living obstacle and trying to cut you down on a crowded battlefield. I thought of someone rushing into that metaphoric fray, and the relief they must feel when they reach the other side alive. Then I added two more thoughts. One, that in this game, it is a person’s own will, not the obstacle, that actually stops them, and two, Screwtape’s admission that the most fun thing is to make the man believe that he can no longer go on–at precisely the moment that, had he persevered, help would have been imminent.
In short, I’ve started to objectify setbacks and rejections as living obstacles that I can kill at will, and then step over the bodies, taking what comes next, whether it be the end of the line, or another unopened envelope marked “Not accepting submissions.” We’ll see how it goes, but for now, that’s how I’m starting.
I love the Braveheart image between the writer and the publisher, Josh. When I see my many writer friends together and they get ready to leave I always feel like saying what the charge Sargent said each episode of “Hill Street Blues”: “Be careful out there!”
I look forward to receiving your book and be careful out there!