Embracing Rejection: Turning No into Yes.

I’m used to rejection, but it doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when it happens.

The rejections in my life are professional and two-fold – both as a sales representative and a writer.

As a sales rep, “no” is more frequent than “yes.” I represent ten directors, talented and seasoned pros for whom I secure commercials for them to direct. I feel responsible for their livelihood and aspirations, and doing so requires perseverance, a thick skin, and an abdication of control (or deluding myself into thinking I have some).

I hear about a project that may be right for one of my directors, and my job is to contact the gatekeeper in charge – the advertising agency producer. I used to be an agency producer before I transitioned to sales, so I certainly understand their position of being bombarded by hundreds of reps like me in an attempt to sift through the emails to find a match to present to their creative teams and clients. Often, my email (I don’t believe in hounding via phone) doesn’t make it through the noise, and the lack of response doesn’t upset me. Because I’ve been there. So when I do get a response and am asked to send reels, I rejoice. And when the reels get viewed and shared (we reps have spy-ware so fyi we know when this happens) I experience a win-thrill. I got a chance to throw the ball into the basket! Whether or not it goes in however, is not up to me. My job is to sit on my email-hands and instead send Jedi waves through the ether (“This is the director you’re looking for…”).

I try to turn a “no” into a “maybe,” and a maybe into a “yes.” And in the crazy ever-changing business of advertising, when that actually does work (I like to believe it’s because of my mind force) the ball can still bounce back out of the basket, even after it’s gone in. (Forgive the metaphor – I played basketball aka Jew-Ball in high-school and I sucked but played Center anyway because I’m a tall Jew). In a sense, I move air around for a living – trying to make a match between a project description and a person via the interwebs. Like a real estate broker without an abode or a shoe salesman without the shoes.

But my real currency is relationships; befriending and wining and dining the gatekeepers – many of whom have become long lasting friends – with the hopes that my email will break through the next round of clutter. Because if the gatekeeper doesn’t know me, the lack of recognition – just my name in the signature of an email – gets lost, confused, and sometimes, I’m mistaken for a dude from India.

But in the last week, I’ve found myself suddenly reacting with sensitivity and frustration (privately) to these rejections, and I couldn’t figure out what had changed.

Until I realized that earlier that day, I had received another kind of rejection.

My memoir is out on submission with my literary agent. My writing rep. In a sense, she has my job – sending material to the gatekeepers at publishing houses who say yay or nay to my book. She’s a straight up thick-skinned gal (my kind of woman), and we agreed that whenever she receives a reply from an editor, good or bad, she should feel free to hit “forward” so I know what’s happening, no emoticons or hand holding required. I’m cool with this, but on a particular morning last week, on the heels of a rejection from an agency producer, my agent forwarded me an editor rejection, “Not for me. Thanks.”

Ouch. My thick skin spontaneously melted into flimsy skin. It took a few forwards to my husband and to my group of writer pals to get over it and move on. In truth, I prefer the straight up pass, rather than a long explanation of tropes or apologies.

And yet, I keep going. Writing essays and submitting them to anonymous editors. Writing books and putting them out into a vast world of unknowns. Curating director reels and finding out of the box ways to get them viewed and considered, and trying really hard to let go of the outcome. Assuring my directors, just like my agent assures me, that it just wasn’t a match. Believing in my directors’ talent, like my agent believes in mine. But mostly, finding a way to recycle my belief in myself and not take the rejections personally, because as the old saying goes, it really isn’t personal.

The antonym for “rejection” is “acceptance” and “choice.” So I choose to embrace my choices and to do what I must. To keep going. Repeatedly hearing “no” is not going to stop me from exercising my throwing muscles, over and over, and reminding myself that the more “no’s” I get, the closer I get to a “yes.”

17 replies
  1. Estelle
    Estelle says:

    Congrats on having an agent who believes in you. I love your last line about the more no’s you get the closer you get to yes. Great philosophy to have. I believe you will get there!

  2. Nina
    Nina says:

    Your agent has undoubtedly read thousands upon thousands of books, so if he/she believes in you that is a big first step. And I can speak from the experience of reading quite a few of your blogs. They never disappoint, always well written and you have a style that engages the reader and makes them feel what you are going through. I can’t wait to read your memoir and I’m not just saying that to be nice, I give out compliments very sparingly. I’m sure there is a publisher out there who will feel the same way I do and it will be a good “fit” for both of you.

  3. Lynn Hall
    Lynn Hall says:

    I hear you, Oritte. I’ve noticed the same thing now that I’m also on submission: I am more sensitive in other areas of my life where I normally am not. Thank you for the reminder that a “no” is closer to a “yes!”

  4. Antonia
    Antonia says:

    sooooooooooooo awesome and dead on! God, if only those “Jedi waves through the ether” would work every time we wanted them to… but thankfully there’s often a bigger plan at work 🙂 It’s like all the perceived failures make up the stones in the pathway to the glorious, beautiful success that awaits once the right “gatekeeper” lets us in. And that gatekeeper can even be our own mind in the beginning…

    Re: the book, it reminds me of Jonathan Livingston Seagull being rejected before going onto becoming a classic, or good grief, Chicken Soup for the Soul! THAT thing was rejected a total of 140 times (!!!), and now it’s sold more than 80 million copies. And the last one – Carrie by Stephen King. Supposedly his wife actually had to fish it out of the garbage after he threw it away upon the 30th rejection, and we all know what happened next.

    So keep on keepin’ on girl, and we’re here for the journey. You are a gift. It is through your own life’s example that we understand our own, which is the most beautiful offering, I do believe, of every talented author destined to leave their mark on generations to come… x

    • cougel
      cougel says:

      That’s so true about those incredible authors – great reminder. Thank you for your consistent love and support! xo

  5. Suzan Bond
    Suzan Bond says:

    This is so good Oritte. Especially love this >> The antonym for “rejection” is “acceptance” and “choice.” As always you enlighten me while sharing your humanity. Your writing is so powerful and you are such an inspiration.

  6. Bob
    Bob says:

    I can only say that thick skin is a prerequisite to any creative endeavor. This has been true since somebody first critiqued a cave drawing. (Of course this was followed by the first critic being clubbed to death, but I digress.) And I can speak from recent experience that the hardest part is not letting it seep into your personal or family life, as Lynn eluded to above.

    • cougel
      cougel says:

      Really good point, Bob. It is true about any creative endeavor most definitely. Thank you for your thoughts!

  7. Laura Zera
    Laura Zera says:

    Yes, yes, yes! LOL! Like your last line, I have a mantra that I repeat to myself: “Yes” lives in the land of “no.”

    Aren’t there just some days when you’d give the shirt off your back for some instant gratification?! I just put all my annuals into my flower pots and they look very, very pretty. I hope it holds me over for the day/week while I head to my office and work on an essay that may or may not see publication in 9-12 months. 😛

    • cougel
      cougel says:

      Love this, Laura. I love that you have flower pots. Mine don’t survive! Thanks for reading and commenting xo

  8. Sophie
    Sophie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this post. This and all your others are so open, vulnerable and allow me to remember that others face hard and difficult or frustrating times.


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