The Story Behind the Story: “A Trail of No”

A writer’s life is fraught with rejection. In the face of continual rejection, of people telling you that your work does not “meet our needs,” writers have to keep writing and sending work out for consideration.  Of course, we don’t have to send our work out. We can write and write and never let anyone see or read our work; however, most writers say, “Why would I do that?”  A part of writing is the belief that we have something of value to say.  I love Richard Hugo’s quote, “An act of imagination is an act of self-acceptance.”  To be a writer, one must have confidence and resilience.  We must believe we have something worthwhile to convey; if not, why would we try to get published?  Why would we want anyone to read our work?

When I first decided to become a writer, I thought publication was the goal.  As I sent out poems in college, I covered my entire dorm room wall with rejection slips before my first acceptance ever came in the mail.  It makes me think of the very long “trail of no” I have left behind me and ahead of me.  That sense of rejection has to have an effect on me.  It can beat me down, or it can spur me on.  This essay is a reflection, a meditation, on that concept: how has rejection affected me and my writing?

Life is full of rejection, and the sooner we learn how to deal with it, the better.

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About David James

One portion of David James’ trail of no ended when his second book, She Dances Like Mussolini, was published in 2009 (25 years after his first book, A Heart Out of This World by Carnegie Mellon U. Press). This book won the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award for poetry. His third book, My Torn Dance Card, was a finalist in the 2016 Next Generation Indie book award. James has five chapbooks and has had more than thirty of his one-act plays produced from New York City to San Diego, CA. He teaches writing at a community college in Michigan.