If Rejection Makes You Quit, Good.

Back in 1994, when I was first starting my humor writing career, I had been included on a guy’s website that listed funny writers on the Internet. A few months later, when I was checking the site again, he had removed me from his list.

When I emailed him about it, he replied, “Because I don’t think you’re that funny.”

My first reaction was “well, f*** you!” But I didn’t say that. I said it a lot to the computer, and vented to another humor writer about it, but I didn’t tell him what a little twit he was. I swore I would “show that humorless little bastard who’s funny,” vowing to become the funniest newspaper humor columnist this side of Dave Barry.

Then I did something even better. I outlasted the guy. I worked and honed my writing and my humor year after year. The humorless guy killed his page after about 12 months, and was never heard from again.

But it did hurt my feelings. It made me feel like I wasn’t very good at what I loved to do. But the one thing I never did was quit. I never stopped writing humor. (Mostly because I was so full of myself, I believed the guy was an idiot, and that I was better than he thought. So quitting never actually occurred to me.)

But regardless, that’s the pivotal event that every artist faces: the successful ones keep going, the wanna-bes and poseurs quit and go through the motions.

Rejection Does Not Mean the End

I hate watching American Idol and X Factor because so many people see their rejection as the end of their career, sobbing that this was their one and only chance at stardom.

How asinine are these people? If they were true artists, trying out for a TV show would be just one rejection of many on the road to success. The true artist would shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh well. I’ve got an audition at Cadillac Ranch I have to get to.” But these morons sob like it’s the end of the world and they give up on a dream that was nothing more than a flight of fancy.

That’s how you can tell the difference between a real artist and a poseur. The real artist does their art every day. The poseur waits for inspiration, which comes every few days, but only if they have time for it.

The poseur has plenty of time to stew over the sting of this new rejection; the real artist barely has time to think about their successes, let alone being passed over by the mouth-breathers who wouldn’t know real talent if it kicked them in the ass. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.)

That Which Does Not Kill You Makes You Stronger

If you quit your art because someone didn’t like what you did, you weren’t that serious about it in the first place.

There are plenty of people who quit pursuing what they think is their dream after they receive a couple rejections, believing they’re at the top of their game after a few short months, or even a year or two. They get voted off the show, turned down, or otherwise rejected, and they’re done.

In his book, On Writing, Stephen King tells a story about how impaled every rejection letter he received on a nail. It eventually became so full, and the letters weighed so much, he had to replace it with a railroad spike. This is the guy who has published thousands of novels and a kajillion words. And he was rejected so much that he needed an industrial-sized rejection letter holder.

But he never quit. Never, ever. And now he makes millions of dollars scaring the bejeezus out of millions of people.

We Need Rejection to Weed Out the Poseurs

If you really love your art, you won’t let a few haters keep you from it. That’s because it’s a passion, not a daydream. It’s not a whim. It’s not something you do during commercials. It’s what you do instead of everything else, every day.

If you’re easily persuaded to quit, just because someone somewhere didn’t like what you were doing, then quit. Quit now. Quit wasting your time in pursuing something you don’t really love, just because you thought it “sounded neat.” Save the rest us the hassle of climbing over you later.

But if you’re serious about it, you can get discouraged, you can get sad, you can think the other person is a big stinky jerkface. We all have those moments. We all think the people who told us “no” are know-nothing mouth-breathers.

The difference between the serious artist and the poseurs is that we don’t quit when we get rejected. We impale the rejection letter on a spike and start on the next project.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Rejection is good. I had a professor once who rejected my work several times on many different merits. It wasn’t until I sat with him and pointed out all the good things and professional attributes my work embodied. It was then he leaned back into his chair, smiled and said, “you have learned to defend your work, which is what I wanted to teach you.” Now go make it great. “This time,” he said, “make it stand on its own.”

      Rejection pushes us. It refines us and our work. It strengthens and teaches us to defend our work and intimately know our craft.

    2. John,

      I think for the successful artists, rejection is what drives us. At the very least, it gives us that “I’ll show them!” attitude, and we work harder. At the same time, if we get constructive criticism with the rejection — “here’s something that we’d like to see next time” — then that gives us something to work on and get better at.


    3. Rejection is good. I remember a discussion I had with the great french actor Jean Reno and he told me that what kept him going was the constant “No” he was getting from producers and casting directors.

      I think this applies to many other fields and people in life. What is really worth going for isn’t going to be handed to us.
      The earlier we learn this, the better.

      Keep those rejection letters, they are your trophies!


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