Rejection stamp on document

Shake It Off

by Felicia Ferguson

 

“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet”

(Matthew 10:14, NKJV).

My first writing rejection happened in the second grade. I distinctly remember our assignment about Halloween costumes that year. My long, dark hair and love of Star Wars had inspired my garb. The day after the holiday, my brusque, sour, and impatient teacher, Mrs. Jackson handed out worksheets with pumpkin-shaped outlines and wide-spaced lines. I diligently described my costume (a white shift), my hairstyle (buns over each ear), and how I carried a plastic pumpkin to collect my treats. After re-rereading the story, I was pleased I had followed Mrs. Jackson’s directions and written an accurate description of my Princess Leia portrayal. I turned it in, confident of its perfection.

I received my paper with shock at the “X” across the top instead of the desired checkmark. My story was rejected. Why? The red ink in the top right corner told its own story. The piece lacked sufficient length.

Stunned, I stared at the paper, wracking my memory over the guidelines she had given. The assignment never mentioned details about length. The number of available lines on the paper implied an unspoken format as if meant to speak for themselves. Disappointed and feeling cheated, I glanced around at my desk mates’ papers. Checkmarks abounded. The rejection stung. I felt singled out, certain she didn’t like me as she cracked wry jokes with the rest of the class. As the day progressed, I sank lower in my seat and into myself.

Now, decades and multiple writing projects (and even rejections) later, I’ve learned to separate my worth from that of my writing. As Christians, our words are to be laden with salt and light, but not everyone will receive them. Maybe our submission isn’t the right fit for a specific publisher. Perhaps our words trigger something in the reader that they don’t want to face. Maybe the piece needs editing to shine its brightest. However, none of those potential issues should be taken as personal slights, dismissals, or even outright attacks. We are God’s beloved children, accepted, not rejected. So, shake off the rejection, ask God for his redirection, and keep writing.

 

Lord, help us persevere as writers and see rejections not as a statement of our worth, but as your redirection on our writing journey.

 

Felicia Ferguson headshotFelicia achieved master’s degrees in Healthcare Administration and Speech-Language Pathology but has written since childhood. An award-winning fiction and non-fiction freelance writer, she has published several devotions and sweet romance short stories. Her passion, however, is women’s fiction with strong female characters who work through their traumas and tragedies using biblical and counseling principles.

2 thoughts on “Shake It Off by Felicia Ferguson”

  1. Well said, Felicia. I’m saving this one! Sometimes I really need to remember to shake it off.

  2. Felicia, as a retired English teacher I cringed to hear how so many years later you recall every detail of that teacher’s rejection. Thank you for modeling how to separate others’ reactions from one’s own feelings and confidence. I grieve for the hurts we teachers have given!

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