Patience in the face of NOs

Patience is as essential for a writer as a sharp pencil and a legal pad.

I’ll never forget my first real-world lesson in speechwriting. I’d sat in the CEO’s office for an hour, faithfully writing down every word that fell from his lips. A week later, I was back, having turned those words into a speech. A pretty good speech, too, if you asked me.

But only one opinion in that room mattered, and it wasn’t mine.

“This is not what I wanted to say,” the CEO bellowed—even though it was exactly what he’d said days earlier.

“So what do you want to say?” I asked. He told me. I wrote the speech (again) and it was good. Patience for the win.

Decades as a corporate writer has prepared me well for that other kind of writing—the kind that no one has commissioned. You do it because you want to, because you have a story to tell. Write it first, sell it later. Or at least try to.

Following the hashtag #amquerying will take you down a rabbit hole in which there seems to be far more hole than rabbit. Months-long waits for a reply, only to have it be a rejection. Or, the converse, rejections that hit your in-box almost as soon as the query arrives in theirs. That’s IF you’re lucky enough to hear back at all. I just heard about one agent who responded to a query a couple of years late—a week before the book she’d been queried about got published.

Fortunately, all those years of dealing with clients has toughened up my hide. And even though the book I’m currently querying for is very personal, I remind myself that—at this stage of the game—my opinion is not the one that matters.

The minute I get a rejection, I turn around and send out another query—keeping six open at any time. And each rejection gets me closer to my goal: 100 rejections over the course of this year. I don’t know what prize I’ll give myself if I get there, but it will be juicy and rare. (Can you tell I’m craving a good steak dinner?) Below my list, a card from my friend Melissa Smith, “Your Words Matter” comforts me as the No’s pile up. She’s right, and one day I’ll find an agent and publisher who agree.

In the writing world, rejection remains inevitable. In other worlds, too. So find some patience and don’t let it weigh you down.

  • patience
  • personal growth