Dealing with Discouragement as a Writer

There’s been a lot of discussion on one of my writing loops this past week about how to deal with discouragement.

If you’re a writer, I think I can safely say that every single one of us has dealt with discouragement at one time or another, caused either by publisher rejection or writer’s block or self-doubt over one’s abilities, or whatever.  But how is this for encouraging?  (I came across this list about six years ago, so many thanks to Dan Poynter’s website for this info;  The list below is taped it to my computer. It helps me to remember that we all write for the love of writing, not necessarily to make money. Which puts us in some good company:


Pearl S. Buck – The Good Earth – 14 times
Norman Mailer – The Naked and the Dead – 12 times
Patrick Dennis- Auntie Mame – 15 times
George Orwell – Animal Farm
Richard Bach – Jonathan Livingston Seagull – 20 times
Joseph Heller - Catch-22 – 22 times
Mary Higgins Clark – first short story – 40 times
Alex Haley – before Roots – 200 rejections
Robert Persig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – 121 times
John Grisham – A Time to Kill – 15 publishers and 30 agents (he ended up publishing it himself)
Chicken Soup for the Soul – 33 times
Dr. Seuss – 24 times
Louis L’Amour – 200 rejections
Jack London – 600 before his first story
John Creasy – 774 rejections before selling his first story.  He went on to write 564 books, using fourteen names.
Jerzy Kosinski – 13 agents and 14 publishers rejected his best-selling novel when he submitted it under a different name, including Random House, which had originally published it.
Diary of Anne Frank

Stephen King’s first four novels were rejected. This guy from Maine sent in this novel over the transom, said Bill Thompson, his former editor at Doubleday. Mr. Thompson, sensing something there, asked to see subsequent novels, but still rejected the next three. However, King withstood the rejection, and Mr. Thompson finally bought the fifth novel, despite his colleague’s lack of enthusiasm, for $2,500. It was called Carrie.

During his entire lifetime, Herman Melville’s timeless classic, Moby Dick, sold only 3,715 copies.

And who needs to be reminded that J.K. Rowling was on welfare, pitching the last publisher in all of England (after being rejected by all the rest) when she sold the first Harry Potter book?


Remembrance of things Past, by Marcel Proust
Ulysses, by James Joyce
The Adventures of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
A Time to Kill, by John Grisham
The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton
The Bridges of Madison County
What Color is Your Parachute
In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters
The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield
The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. (and his student E. B. White)
The Joy of Cooking
When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple
Life’s Little Instruction Book
Robert’s Rules of Order


Deepak Chopra
Gertrude Stein
Zane Grey
Upton Sinclair
Carl Sandburg
Ezra Pound
Mark Twain
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Stephen Crane
Bernard Shaw
Anais Nin
Thomas Paine
Virginia Wolff
e.e. Cummings
Edgar Allen Poe
Rudyard Kipling
Henry David Thoreau
Benjamin Franklin
Walt Whitman
Alexandre Dumas
William E.B. DuBois
Beatrix Potter

Bottom line lesson:  hang in there! Calvin Coolidge said “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

A writer writes. It’s what we do. Don’t ever give up that spark of imagination which fires your unique ideas and helps entertain people. Give birth to the stories inside you, and let them come out into the world!

Happy writing!


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