Motherhood & Words

sunshine, running and rejection

I spent last week checking things off my to-do list. The days were rainy and cold, so I put my head down and tried to work as much as possible. It wasn’t creative work, but it needed to be done. This kind of productivity usually buoys me, but the weather and the disappointments inherent in a writer’s life were working against me, and I felt myself slipping.

I always tell my writing students to keep going, to never give up. You must sit down at your desk and do your work. You write through the rejection and through the disappointment. And because this is the advice I dole out, I know I must follow it, as well. And I do. I show up. I sit down at my desk. I wrestle with my prose. I send my work out. I file away my rejection letters. But sometimes I feel so tired of it all.

Then yesterday morning, as Stella climbed into our bed and settled into my arms, our bedroom brightened with sunlight. Our walls began to glow, and for the first time in days, I felt hopeful. I dropped the girls at daycare and school and went to my book group, which never fails to lift my spirits, and then I went for a run along the river, iPod blaring. By the time I returned home, I was high on endorphins. Perhaps there will be something wonderful in my inbox?

There wasn’t something wonderful in my inbox. There was another rejection waiting for me when I logged in.

Sometimes it’s even harder to get a rejection when I’m feeling hopeful, when I’m buzzing on a post-run high. A few simple lines can destroy the results of my recent mood-enhancing activities. The sun was still shining, yes. But it didn’t even matter.

It’s another gorgeous day today. I’ll go for a run this morning, and later the girls and D and I will head over to our local Art-A-Whirl. I’ll “have fun!” and “Be cheerful!” Maybe I’ll even be able to stopping thinking about writing for a day.

And the good news is that it’s Saturday—I’ve never been rejected on a Saturday.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. jeneva on May 15, 2010 at 10:01 am

    The acceptances will come again–they always do. One of my poet-friends, who is very well-established and successful, says 50 rejections to 1 acceptance is her rule of thumb.

    Your piece in Brevity was stunning!! Keep your triumphs in mind.

  2. Amber S on May 15, 2010 at 10:56 am

    Aww, Kate, I'm there with you about the weather. It was a tough week until Friday. I am slowly learning not to beat myself up for not always feeling bouyant.

    Bummer about the rejection. {{hugs}}

    Bask in the sunny rays and have a great day today!

  3. gillian on May 15, 2010 at 11:29 am

    I am so impressed you keep going! I sputter and sputter, scared of rejection. Hugs!

  4. Melissa on May 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    One thing about rejections:they do mean you're working. You're writing and getting stuff out there. You aren't writing so slowly or sporadically that nothing's even going out into the world… Not that I'd know anything about that. Ahem.

    Grand acceptances of your work will come. And in the meantime, may you be sustained by many supportive blog comments.

  5. K. Woll on May 15, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Rejection sucks. I received a rejection — from a mom-oriented publication no less — on the morning of Mother's Day. I'm not a super Hallmark-holiday person, but this felt a bit cruel. It was an interesting challenge, though, to accept that rejection — of my story! my words! my little reflection on a little piece of motherhood! — and then move into a day that celebrated the story of motherhood in my life as it unfolds.

  6. Ines on May 15, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I know it is hard. And, some days it seems even harder. I am glad today is better.

  7. Elizabeth on May 15, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Ugh — I'm sorry to hear about your slump. I'm with Jeneva, though — you'll get another "run," soon, especially because you've worked for it.

    I envy you the running, actually. I'm so out of shape that when I feel glum, I have NOTHING to do to get those endorphins flowing. Maybe I'll start running —

  8. cath c on May 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    aw. at least you have the guts to keep sending out. and the sunshine came, which does, always make everything a bit better at least.

  9. Cecilia on May 17, 2010 at 10:38 pm

    I'm sorry to hear about the rejection, Kate. But even though you tell us to keep working, to not give up, I read a "But know when you need to take a break" in there too. I recently beat myself up over "you should you should you should" even though I didn't have the energy to do anything, and I realized that I need to just give myself permission to take a break once in awhile. A day without writing sounds good. And then you can step back into the boxing ring fired up for another round. 🙂

  10. unfinishedportraitofsam on May 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

    aw, Kate, i feel you on this one. your ability to keep plugging–even when you're only saying it and not feeling it–is encouraging, for what it's worth. to somebody new to this gig, like me, and new to the incredible lows rejections can cause (i've gotten my first several, recently, with no acceptances), it's encouraging just to hear another writer struggle with it too. i read your blog because it buoys me. for what THAT'S worth, you ought to know that today. thanks.

  11. kate hopper on May 18, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Thank you, everyone. I always forget that when I'm feeling down, I need to write a blog post about it. Your comments always make me feel so much better, and so much less alone!

    Thank you!

    Elizabeth, DO start running. Running and writing seem to go together. It can pull me out of the worst kind of slump.