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Issue of October 22, 2014

A hope note
A hope note
Dr. Wayne Willis reflects on life and hope.


September 18, 2013 | 09:41 AM

I've submitted several manuscripts for books that got rejected. I've submitted several manuscripts for books that got accepted. Accepted is better.

Having a manuscript rejected is like having someone view your baby for the first time, a baby you think belongs in Gerber commercials or on Parents magazine's cover, and hearing the words, "What an ugly baby."

Most successful writers had a lot of babies rejected before one was accepted.

Robert Pirsig received 121 rejections before "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" got accepted. Then the book sold five million copies.

Beatrix Potter's "Peter Rabbit" books were turned down so many times that Potter finally published them herself. Today, 151 million copies from her Peter Rabbit series have sold, in 35 languages.

"Moby Dick," acclaimed by some as the greatest American novel ever written, was not a success in Herman Melville's lifetime. The initial printing of 3,000 copies didn't sell out. Total earnings paid him by Harper and Brothers, the publisher, came to less than $600.

J.K. Rowling submitted "Harry Potter" to 12 publishers who rejected it. Her Potter books have become the best-selling series in history, selling almost a half billion copies.

Rejection hurts. I can't help but like E.E. Cummings' defiant act of poetic justice. His first work, "The Enormous Room," — an enormous success — was rejected by 15 publishers, so he self-published the book and dedicated it to the 15 publishers who had rejected him.

Despite enjoying the spite in that dedication, I believe that Sir William Osler and Robert Louis Stevenson really did speak the truth:

Stevenson: "To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive."

Osler: "To have striven, to have made the effort, to have been true to certain ideals, this alone is worth the struggle."

Dr.Wayne Willis

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