Guided By No

Most writers will have their work rejected. Sometimes this rejection is a product of work being submitted prematurely, but usually it is a consequence of being human. To be sane, a human must be able to say No. And although I love it when people say Yes to me, writing has taught me that my freedom and security are in direct proportion to my willingness to let people say No to me. My goal is to write stories that I love to write, teach classes that I love to teach, share perspectives that I love to share. No one in the world can tell me what to love, and no in the world can tell me that I don’t love something. No one in the world can tell me what to teach or write or what to focus my attention upon. I am necessarily alone in that decision, for that decision is the most important decision I will ever make.

I tried for a very long time to write stories that I did not love to write. I did not understand at the time that I did not love to write them. I was like a man who had lived in a loveless marriage for years and did not understand there was any other kind of marriage in which one could live. Fortunately, the agents and editors to whom I sent these stores said No. I was a very determined fellow, and so I got to hear a lot of No’s, and I was not happy about any of them.

Eventually, all the No’s guided me back to the Yes I had been looking for. Now there is no longer the question of whether I am good enough, or talented enough, or smart enough; now there is only the question of how I will share what I had found. Now I am free to say No to all the stories I had once believed I had to tell, and now I can finally grant that freedom to everyone else.


Write Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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