Turned down for: freelance jobs and volunteer work; exam admissions and workshop sessions; writing competitions and anthology publications.

Reminded each day: too fat to wear this, too ill to do that.

Told to: leave a house; leave a relationship; leave a college; leave a dream; leave a hope.

Then the Other Day…

…I come across this article: 10 Rejection Letters to Famous People

And I realize: if Walt Disney can be rejected for “lacking imagination” and George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is just another animal story, if Kurt Vonnegut’s writing samples aren’t “compelling enough” and Sylvia Plath’s poetry needs to be cut, if Stephen King’s manuscript is sent back 30 times and if Abraham Lincoln can lose several elections, then I

sure as heck

can handle

a year of trying and failing, trying and failing, and learning to live rejected.

And so as a symbol of that resolve I’m sharing a poem about the rejections slips received by arguably the best science fiction author of all time. (Who had a great sense of humor too.)


Dear Asimov, all mental laws

Prove orthodoxy has its flaws.

Consider that eclectic clause

In Kant’s philosophy that gnaws

With ceaseless anti-logic jaws

At all outworn and useless saws

That stick in modern mutant craws.

So here’s your tale (with faint applause).

The words above show ample cause.


Dear Ike, I was prepared

(And, boy, I really cared)

To swallow almost anything you wrote.

But, Ike, you’re just plain shot,

Your writing’s gone to pot,

There’s nothing left but hack and mental bloat.

Take back this piece of junk;

It smelled; it reeked; it stunk;

Just glancing through it once was deadly rough.

But Ike, boy, by and by,

Just try another try.

I need some yams and, kid, I love your stuff.


Dear Isaac, friend of mine,

I thought your tale was fine.

Just frightful-

Ly delightful

And with merits all a-shine.

It meant a quite full

Night, full,

Friend, of tension

Then relief

And attended

With full measure

Of the pleasure

Of suspended


It is triteful,

Scarcely rightful,

Almost spiteful

To declare

That some tiny faults are there.

Nothing much,

Perhaps a touch,

And over such

You shouldn’t pine.

So let me say

Without delay,

My pal, my friend,

Your story’s end

Has left me gay

And joyfully composed.

P. S.

Oh, yes,

I must confess

(With some distress)

Your story is regretfully enclosed.

--Isaac Asimov, "Rejection Slips"

6 thoughts on “The Year of Living Rejectedly

  1. I like to think of the publishers who rejected Harry Potter and are probably kicking themselves since then. Rejection, unfortunately, is the unwanted bedfellow we try to kick off the mattress. But I like that you have so much heart. Trust me, when I say it’s going to see you through it all. Just don’t give up. Don’t stop trying! 🙂

    1. The article helped tremendously. It’s easy to think of ourselves as uniquely talented but probably even easier to think of ourselves as uniquely untalented. This helps reminds us everybody starts somewhere, and often the key to success is sticking with something you love despite everybody telling you to quit.

      I think that explains why so many great writers weren’t “career authors”–nobody wanted to pay them enough to only write, so they did other jobs while stubbornly refusing to stop. Thomas Bullfinch, for example, was something of a “failure” for his well-educated well-heeled professional family (hello!) whose career highlights include briefly teaching Latin before becoming a bank clerk…and writing perhaps history’s single most influential compendium of Greek mythology for the public.

  2. Rejection : A being that ruffles your feathers and gnaws at your soul. Let it inside and death shall await your cursed body. Repel it and perhaps you can live.

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