Unfortunately, I am far too fearful of my future anxiety to get anything permanently written on my body, but if I was to get myself a tattoo, it would undoubtably be the Beckett adage: All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. I often catch myself whispering those words inside my head like a prayer, because if there’s anything more frustrating to fall out of our hands, its the fateful kiss of rejection.
And whether it’s rejection from love, work, or really anything in life, it comes with a sting like no other. However, it’s that sting which propels us forward so that we can, alas, fail better and show those spurning us what they’re missing. And of course, everyone you love and admire has found themselves on the bitter end of rejection at one point or another—every artist or writer struggling to get their voice heard and on their terms. So, as its Friday and you’ll have the whole weekend to lament the current state of your existence, here are some rejection letters written to some of the most successful and brilliant artists and writers, from Sylvia Plath’s suggestion to trim her words to Kurt Vonnegut being told his work is not compelling enough. I can’t go on/ I’ll go on.
The New Yorker to Sylvia Plath
The Atlantic to Kurt Vonnegut
The Atlantic Monthly
August 29, 1949
Dear Mr. Vonnegut:
We have been carrying out our usual summer house-cleaning of the manuscripts on our anxious bench and in the file, and among them I find the three papers which you have shown me as samples of your work. I am sincerely sorry that no one of them seems to us well adapted to for our purpose. Both the account of the bombing of Dresden and your article, “What’s a Fair Price for Golden Eggs?” have drawn commendation although neither one is quite compelling enough for final acceptance.
Our staff continues fully manned so I cannot hold out the hope of an editorial assignment, but I shall be glad to know that you have found a promising opening elsewhere.
(Signed, ‘Edward Weeks’)
October 18, 1956
Dear Mr. Warhol:
Last week our Committee on the Museum Collections held its first meeting of the fall season and had a chance to study your drawing entitled Shoe which you so generously offered as a gift to the Museum.
I regret that I must report to you that the Committee decided, after careful consideration, that they ought not to accept it for our Collection.
Let me explain that because of our severely limited gallery and storage space we must turn down many gifts offered, since we feel it is not fair to accept as a gift a work which may be shown only infrequently.
Nevertheless, the Committee has asked me to pass on to you their thanks for your generous expression of interest in our Collection.
Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Director of Museum Collections
Mr. Andy Warhol
242 Lexington Avenue
New York, New York
P.S. The drawing may be picked up from the museum at your convenience.