Updated: Dec 28, 2020
From the second I walked into the executive suite at work, I knew what meeting I was in.
When the three people sitting in front of you are your manager, the director of human resources, and the C.O.O., there’s only one meeting it can possibly be.
I took a seat and waited. I could tell from the dour expressions on all their faces that they were dreading this conversation, perhaps more than I was.
My manager took a deep breath and began a speech he'd obviously went over and over again in his mind. There had been problems with my performance in the past, and while they’d tried to make corrections, it didn’t seem that I was making any progress. They’d decided to let me go.
I can’t say I was surprised. There had been issues. While I’d initially been hired at the tech company as a writer, the job gradually became a lot less writing-related and a lot more “techy.” Undaunted, I’d continued banging my head against the wall, trying to make things work. But despite all my best efforts, they didn’t.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that it was a totally smooth transition. Nobody likes getting fired.
But as I’ve come to realize, that meeting was the defining moment of my professional life. Probably one of the defining moments of my life in general. I used to think being rejected in such a personal and career-altering way was the worst thing that could possibly happen to me. But in the end, two things came out of it.
First, it forced me to face my worst fear head-on and realize I could not only survive it, but come out of it better than I was. Rejection is only negative if you allow yourself to be ruled by the fear of not being able to “measure up” or please people. This is pride, and it’s the kiss of death that will keep you from really believing in your work or your abilities.
Second, the management of that company did something for me that I couldn’t do myself: recognize when it was time for me to move on.
Their decision set me free from all that head-banging, from trying to fit myself into a place I wasn’t designed to be in anymore. I was so busy trying to make it work that I didn’t realize how miserable I was.
Within two weeks, I landed in a new job that would teach me new skills to truly help me become better as a writer and learn to participate in the idea marketplace. The difference in my work quality and mental health was palpable.
The new abilities I acquired there were a game changer for me. In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that you've landed on my website because I first sat in that uncomfortable but necessary meeting.
Rejection is painful—but if you are willing to grasp it with humility, the next thing will be better. You’re going to face rejection as a writer. You’ll have work turned down by literary journals, agents, and publishers. You’ll have ideas you don’t want to give up on even though they are clearly holding your project back from the being the best it can be.
You might even get fired from a job.
But the best thing you can do when any of this happens is to accept the obstacles with humility, get some distance, assess what went wrong, and figure out what to do next.
This is especially true when it comes to revising your work. If your story gets rejected, show it to a friend and ask for a critique.
A trusted writing buddy or mentor who can get real with you about what you need to work on is one of your greatest assets. Positive comments might be a nice love-fest, but they aren't going to do as much to make you a bette writer as a good, solid constructive critique.
Facing your weaknesses and addressing them are what help you level up.
Failure and rejection aren’t a referendum on your talent or ability, and definitely not on you as a person. How you respond is what makes you a true artist & professional.
And it may be the moment when everything changes. What failures have you encountered in your writing adventures and what did you learn? I’d love to hear about your stories. Feel free to drop me an email at email@example.com and share your story. Writing Prompt: Describe a moment in your life that was a happy accident.