609 rejection letters

I’ve been enjoying the NPR series “My Big Break.” Reporters interview people to find out how they got their starts in their careers. It’s a little bit like what I’m trying to do with The Life Work Blog.

The most recent interview, with The New Yorker cartoonist Tom Toro, highlighted a quality that many educators believe is necessary for students to succeed in life – grit.

A researcher in this story includes a definition of grit as:

This quality of being able to sustain your passions, and also work really hard at them, over really disappointingly long periods of time …

After a chance discovery of a stack of magazines triggered a desire to take up cartooning again, Mr. Toro submitted hundreds of cartoons to The New Yorker. As he collected rejection letter after rejection letter, he continued working to improve his drawings.

Ultimately, he received SIX HUNDRED AND NINE rejection letters. His 610th cartoon was accepted for publication in the magazine.

I’m impressed with this kind of indefatigable pursuit of a goal.

I’m currently reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin, in which the author spends each month over the course of a year focusing on improving her happiness by tweaking different elements of her life.

In the chapter for March, “Aim Higher,” Gretchen notes that social science research shows that people are happier when they have challenges, new experiences, and the opportunity to grow. But challenge comes with the potential for failure, which may put people off from tackling new goals. Gretchen counters this by telling herself, “I enjoy the fun of failure.”

Part of me thinks I couldn’t tolerate 600-plus rejection letters. Another part of me knows that, in order to succeed as a writer, I’m going to need to get very comfortable with rejection.

Perhaps I ought to play Rejection Therapy as practice.

What kind of experiences do you have with rejection before you got your “big break”?

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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