Now That’s Rejection

Over on the There are No Rules blog, Jane Friedman posted a great/horrific (depending on your point of view) rejection letter from Charles Dickens to a young ambitious writer. At the very least, the letter is blunt to the point of being scathing.

“I cannot even entirely satisfy myself that you have the faculty of authorship latent within you. If you have not, and yet pursue a vocation towards which you have no call, you cannot choose but be a wretched man.”

The dork in me would love to get a letter from Dickens, cruel or otherwise, but Jane brings up an excellent point: if you got such a letter would be you the type of writer who becomes discouraged, or the type who rises up into fight mode? How do you deal with rejection, especially the type that tells you to give up writing? Does this type of letter make you want to stop writing or get right back at it?

Something else to think about – we don’t know if the young writer was good or bad. What if Dickens was jealous? What if the writer had talent but was disorganized?

If you have contact with writers just starting out, show them this letter and ask their response. It might be an excellent jumping off point for a classroom discussion about becoming a writer.

About the author

Lindsay Price


  • I’d be thrown into overdrive myself, not sleeping until I’d finished a book. But the classes I teach are full of students who have not written a word for … maybe decades … since some ludite teacher made a negative commment, or informed the class that “Real writers get up at 5 am and write for four hours before they even have coffee. Every day. All year. Or else they are not Real Writers.” that sort of thing. Who wants to be a real writer?

    This makes me totally nuts. The class always gets a kick out of the smoke that rises from my ears, and the dagger-like flames shooting from my eyes through the ages straight into the soul of that long-dead teacher.

    My continuing mantra is that all writers must find their own process and way of writing. There is NO WRITE WAY TO WRITE.

    Phew! I get worked up even commenting about that. So, yes, I love this letter, and I will share it. Thank you!