So you are a writer or an applicant of sorts and you are stuck on life with that deciding rejection letter, then this is for you.
Few days ago I stumbled upon, as many of you must have anyway, Albert Einstein’s rejection letter. It was almost unbelievable that Einstein’s work was once rejected and yet he forged ahead, driven by the negatives.
Ersatz or rather factitious as the letter may seem, it prompted me one morning to check other personages and celebrities who have had to deal with their works being rejected once or twice or more in their lives.
If you have read the books: ‘The Left Hand Of Darkness, A Wizard Of Earthsea and the Dispossessed’, you’d most certainly agree that Ursula Le Guinn is a badass writer.
Those who are familiar with her know she worked mainly in the genres of fantasy and science fiction. Her writing often depicted futuristic or imaginary alternative worlds in politics, gender, religion and sexuality. In 2016, The New York Times described her as America’s greatest living science fiction writer.
However, this fame had not come by easy. Le Guinn in 1968 suffered a major writing rejection. Her work was deemed unreadable, airless, lacking in pace and returned to her in a way obnoxious. But did she stop writing regardless? No, she forged ahead- and with the negatives.
Jim Lee. You’ve probably heard of him. Comic and Marvel lovers must have anyway. The brilliant Korean artist who pencilled X-Men The Uncanny, X-Men No. 1, and Claremont, the best selling comic book of all time, according to Guinness World Records. But he didn’t have to write these illustrious books as interesting as they sound.
Recently on Instagram, Jim Lee shared his rejection letter by Marvel Editor Eliot Brown, a company he subsequently works for. His works were deemed of low quality, plagiarized and imitated from excesses. But did Jim Lee give up on his dreams? With the numerous awards to his name, I’ll leave you to judge that for yourself.
There is a painting of twenty-five pictures on the left side of a diptych, woven in mesh and stencils, I first came across on Curiousity. The shades of this piece change because of the oil and paint which gives it a multiplicity of meaning. This mystery of a work was done by Andy Warhol, the renowned art expressionist.
In 1956 Andy gifted the Museum of Modern Art some work with the hope that it’d be accepted and he’d be appraised. Surprisingly, what was meant to be a gift was rejected in the most colourful way. And now if you ask me, Andy would not have had more than 169 pieces of his artworks steaming in the same Museum, some of which were paid, if he hadn’t made both rejection and criticism his motivating drive.
What about Gertrude Stein? No one, I repeat, no one, has ever had to deal with rejection letter in the way Gertrude was made to deal with one. Gertrude’s submitted manuscript was mocked, her words paraphrased as a tool for ridicules. Literally, the editor returned her work both in content and context, with the letter concocting a travesty.
Was she fuming after reading it? Possibly she was. Did she stop writing and submitting, even to the same journal? No, she didn’t. Apparently if she had, she would never go on to become a celebrated art collector and modern playwright. She made negativity her driving force.
Clayton Conrad Anderson is a retired NASA astronaut. Launched on STS-117, he replaced Sunita Williams on June 10, 2007 as a member of the ISS Expedition 15 crew. You’d probably know this one.
He is the man who was rejected by NASA fifteen times before finally going to space. Each rejection letter seemed like the previous ones, but unwavered Anderson kept applying. He saw it as a meal, as a necessity. Something you go for, you keep going for. Fifteen times he applied, fifteen times he was rejected. Until finally, his hands felt the ears of the wind.
Great people not giving up is not a farce, it is the truth. There are many unreported instances of human doggedness, resilience and determination. We intimately know some, we can tell others. We see them everyday. We have to understand that, as a writer, the world will eventually give us what we don’t give up on. I don’t know how much you have suffered. I don’t know why you have stopped writing. But I know for whatever reason, it does not worth it. You are destined to go into space like Anderson.