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.