When a Door Closes . . . Kick in a Window


“Dear Dr. Kramer, we were impressed with your credentials and the high quality of your work but . . . ”

“Dear Ms. Kramer, Your poem was beautiful but too personal for our . . . ”

“Dear Lisa, While the article you wrote does not suit our needs at this time, we were impressed with the writing and hope that you will submit again . . . “


I get them all the time, beautifully written, respectful letters that tell me I am really good, really talented, really impressive, but I still didn’t make the cut. I’m still not what they are looking for. While the above are made up examples (based off of memories from past letters) the following is from an e-mail I received yesterday:

“Dear Dr. Kramer,

Once again, thank you so much for sending in your course proposal to [. . . ].  We received over 80 applications from scholars and artists from all over the country.  The committee deliberated with great care over all of them and in the end chose the three that most closely matched our curricular needs; this was not an easy task, as you may well imagine.  Although your course was not finally selected, we were impressed with its quality and hope that you will keep an eye on our website [. . . ]o see when we might send out a call again.

Thank you again; we are so appreciative of the obvious time and effort you put into your proposal.”

Again, good . . . but not good enough.

Now, obviously this was an encouraging one, and I will indeed continue to apply and keep my name in the game, but meanwhile I have to deal with the emotions of what simply feels like another defeat.

Yesterday I also learned that I didn’t place in a children’s poetry contest that I entered a few months ago.  (I’ll post my submissions later).

Yesterday, I began my new writing course, only to face a complete dearth of ideas. I have no clue what I want to write. I just spent a lot of money, only to have a panic attack  and stare at blank pages while I call myself a fool.

I hear the sound of doors slamming in my face.

I’m tired of that sound, and I don’t accept it anymore.

Too often I’ve heard it only to discover the ideas I expressed in an interview, the suggestions I made to improve a program, the thoughts I shared along the way have been taken and used by somebody else. My ideas are always good enough to “borrow” or “steal” but I never get the job or the recognition. (I’m not saying this is going to happen in this case, just that it has happened in the past).

I went to bed feeling defeated. I woke up feeling like kicking doors down or smashing in windows.

You don’t believe me? A picture is worth 1000 words:

Yesterday, someone on Facebook posted a link to an article called “Being a Success, Without Being a Bestseller” by Dan Blank. In the article, Blank writes:

How you measure success will define the type of writing career you have. While we all dream of being bestsellers, of having the world validate our work on a grand scale, the fact of the matter is: many of us will not be number 1 New York Times bestsellers.

But that doesn’t mean we won’t be great.

Sometimes, it’s not about being a bestseller – it’s about being a writer, putting your work out there, and affecting peoples lives. Of creating meaning for others, one person at a time. Of building a legacy for your work that extends beyond your own lifetime.

Today, I am re-defining success for myself. For too long, I have set my ideals of success in the hands of others, only leaving myself open for the feelings of failure and defeat that come when someone deems that I am somehow “not good enough.” But, NO MORE! I don’t need the big paycheck. (Although money coming in would be nice to be completely honest). I don’t need the title and the accolades. I don’t need the big name company or school to recognize my greatness. I don’t need millions of readers.

What I need to be successful is to do my best and feel that I have done my best. I need to create quality work, no matter what that work is. I need to know that I have somehow reached a few people, and made a difference in this world, even if my name is never emblazoned in lights.

Success for me will be a quiet endeavor. Except, of course, for the sound of me kicking down a few doors along the way.


36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Victoria-writes
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 08:42:18

    As usual we think and feel the same and you’ve said what I want to say 🙂 I love the photo of you kicking the door, I want to cheer out loud but won’t in case people think i’m crazy. DO IT Lisa, kick down those barriers and be the writer you want to be, live your dream no one elses. I believe in you!!


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 08:47:41

      Thanks Vicky. It’s not even just about writing anymore, it’s about doing everything I do with passion and being the best I can be. I am sick of feeling defeat. You do it too, Vicky. I know you can.

      Thank you for believing in me.


      P.S. I dare you to give one big cheer. 😉


  2. Julia Munroe Martin
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 09:12:44

    YOU CAN DO IT!!! (p.s. but I know how you feel; I need to get to the point I can kick down my barriers — which of course are mostly constructed by me. I CAN DO IT TOO!!) xo Julia


  3. Barbarann Ayars
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 09:30:10

    Ah yes, how easily we permit nameless faceless shadow folk to define us, deprive us, defeat us. Those folks who make judgements are cut from the same cloth who rejected the wonder of Harry Potter’s mother, who turned away StephenKing over 200 times. Those factoids alone allow me to shake my head in derision when what I know is fab writing is rejected by similar statements of contrived encouragement. No, nobody says, hey, that stuff sucks, woman, because, in fact, they and I know full well it is really good stuff. What constitutes “good enough” is rather nebulous in this biz. A prerequisite for the aspiring writer Had better be a thick skin and a sense of humor! Lisa, you know you are an excellent writer. What is needed is the one who says they know it too. It’s about the agenda, every time. Just how brave, smart, good is that shadow person who says no thank you? That is the thing we don’t know. And it is why my guest bathroom walls hold framed rejections reflecting responses just like yours.


  4. ifiwerebraveblog
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 09:48:48

    Maybe you should write the story of someone who faces doors continually slamming in his/her face. Or of the one who does the slamming. If that is what’s on your mind, get it on the paper. Best of luck!


  5. Dan Blank
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:02:32

    Love this! Thank you so much for the mention too.


  6. C Michael Hall
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:02:34

    I started building my collection of rejection letters when I was 14. The first came from Marvel Comics; it was even on Spider-Man letterhead. I immediately tacked it to my bedroom wall, and it’s been my favorite rejection letter ever since. Even after finally breaking into the biz as an adult, it remained an inspiration to me. Why? Well, it represented a huge step forward on my part: the acknowledgement that I wanted to spend my life pursuing my craft professionally. But more importantly, the letter was useful not for what it said, but as a symbol of what eventually came to pass. See, the story I submitted was rejected, but lo, just a few short weeks later, a story virtually identical to mine appeared in a Marvel title.

    Now, make no mistake; they did NOT steal my story. Lead-times in the industry back then were around 6 months, so it would’ve been logistically impossible for them to have done so, even had they wanted to (and there was no reason for that, as the writer of the Marvel book in question was a veritable font of fresh ideas). Rather, what had happened was that the writer and I had clearly drawn on the same bank of influences and interests, and had intuitively crafted very similar tales. The only difference between us was that he already worked for Marvel when he had the idea.

    For 26 years, that letter has served as a constant reminder that even when we are rejected, it’s entirely possible it has nothing to do with us…nothing to do with our craft, or the worth of our ideas. Sometimes, rejection is a simple matter of the right hand (editorial) having no idea what the left hand (creative) does to attract readers. To be less jaded about it, sometimes it’s just a matter of timing, or a choice between two ideas of similar merit, the victor decided by factors unrelated to the idea itself…factors pertaining instead to the circumstances under which the choice is to be made.

    Being “chosen” is no indicator of worth. Being chosen is often a simple matter of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right sample for the right editor, who, in a moment is insight, sees a way his bosses can profit from your work. If the timing is off, or if the work’s potential for generating a profit isn’t immediately apparent (and to be fair to the editors, predicting the future is no easy business!), the work may go unpublished, regardless of its actual merits. There are mountains of crappy submissions out there, trust me (I’ve spent the past couple of weeks looking at some), but just because your work doesn’t make the cut this time around, doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

    There is only one audience, one critic, one editor you must satisfy, and that’s yourself. But you already know that.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:10:16


      You are the best. Sadly, yesterday’s rejection had nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with teaching and theatre, but the message remains true. I am learning how to accept, move forward, and recognize that when the stars align properly, I’ll find my place in the universe.


  7. Tori Nelson
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:11:02

    Oh. Oh girl. That picture is worth at LEAST a million words. I like your idea and I think I’ll follow your lead. While my high-kick is nowhere near as impressive as yours, something about not letting a polite rejection feel like a rejection is refreshing!


  8. Sandi Ormsby
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:19:32

    Do it on this blog? Revamp your website- create a page for your awards and remove those buttons from your sidebar and instead place your work. Maybe one of your art pieces or articles or poems and sell them? Maybe create Etsy account (is that what it’s called?) and then link to your Etsy here?

    I have no idea what it is you’re trying to do…but maybe you can design your own place for people to “submit” their work and you’ll find yourself on the other end typing up the “decline” letters. Would that be a change? Imagine!

    Of course, I’m always rooting for you and cheering you on…


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:22:35

      Ah Sandi, if I only knew what I really wanted to do, it would make life so much easier, wouldn’t it? 😛 I do like the idea of revamping my blog somewhat. I’ve been thinking about going for it and just making it my own without but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. I will, however, think about the changes you suggest. I don’t know that I have anything to offer on Etsy, but time will tell.


  9. thelifeofjamie
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 10:23:24

    Next time, don’t just take simulated pictures. Bust down those doors (just not at your house because that would be a whole huge mess you would need to clean up and then you would need a new door…you get my point). Keep trying girl! There is a book called 100 careers for writers. You should check it out.


  10. benzeknees
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 11:58:34

    You can do it Lisa – break down the barriers for those of us following behind you! We all have to get used to a new age in publishing in order to be successful at our chosen vocation & to me it’s a scary world, but invigorating nonetheless!


  11. Kathryn McCullough
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 12:53:35

    Sorry you aren’t feeling so great today. However, your resolve is inspirational. ANd the title of this post–downright brilliant!

    I have huge faith in you, my friend!



  12. Dana
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 13:04:53

    Those pictures are perfect today, Lisa! YOU KICK THAT WINDOW IN! (Unless it’s your own front door, in which case I’d suggest you halt that boot before it makes contact with the glass…)

    I deal with the same sorts of issues with my partner, who is a visual artist and occasionally applies for arts grants and/or gallery shows. Rejection can feel brutal, but every year, we go through the exercise of (re)defining what success means for us. When we examine other avenues to success– not just x amount of grant dollars or y amount of gallery exhibitions– it’s encouraging to reach those goals and truly be “successful”. Success for your writing IS out there, but it might not take the traditional form that every budding writer thinks of first. Good luck to owning YOUR OWN definition of success and then making it happen for your work!


  13. bornstoryteller
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 13:08:23

    Again, you broke out a smile from me. I’d love to smash SO many doors right now…so, ya know I feel you.

    For me, I keep hearing how “over qualified” I am; one rejected me because it was “beneath my caliber.” Sheeesh….that’s job hunting, not rejection letters. Those come enough.

    Keep going. you know all are behind you.


    • Lisa Wields Words
      Feb 14, 2012 @ 14:35:37

      Oh, I get the “over qualified” thing all the time too. But, I think I am the only one who should judge if I will be bored. I’m willing to start at the bottom. It is so frustrating.

      Hang in there Stuart. Things will change. We never did discuss possibilities.


  14. Barbarann Ayars
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 13:13:20

    C. Michael has it, exactly. I will add that timing cannot be controlled. Rowling and King just kept plugging. Never stopped. And finally wise people looked and saw and the reading world had new darlings to enjoy forever. Keep kicking down doors. One day you will walk right through.I know it. You know it. They know it. Ditto teaching etc.


  15. She's a Maineiac
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 13:26:05

    Amen to everything! This post was so refreshing and real. Just keep going! I’m just starting to feel the same way. If it’s something I love to do, then I should keep doing it, regardless of any outward ‘success’.


  16. CMSmith
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 18:01:45

    You are such a multi-talented, generous and kind woman. Treat yourself with the patience you would allow others. You’ll get there. One step at a time. Take a few deep breaths, then sit your butt down in your chair and start typing. It will come to you.


  17. thepetalpusher
    Feb 14, 2012 @ 19:14:13

    I am really impressed with the height of that kick, Girl! My cousin’s husband got his break from writing movie reviews in the newspaper and ended up on television.


  18. Trackback: I Sat On An Ice Cream Sandwich « T. W. Fuller

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