In spite of her Academy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild awards, I feel sorry for Jennifer Hudson. No matter how many accolades she has received, every newspaper, TV show, and magazine has prefaced her name with “American Idol reject” — a constant reminder that at one time she was just not good enough.
While Ms. Hudson stands as an inspiration for all aspiring singers and actors, there are some important lessons writers can glean from her story as well.
NOT GOOD ENOUGH YET
Let’s face it; American Idol did not reject Jennifer Hudson. The judges recognized her abilities. But even after Randy Jackson brought her back for another chance, the public voted her off the show. In a sense they told her, “This isn’t your time. Wait. Be patient.”
Writers encounter this message regularly. Phrases like “Not right for our list,” “We already have something similar on our list,” and “Your writing shows promise,” are just ways of telling the writer, “Your time is coming, but not now.”
As frustrating as this may be, writers need to keep Ms. Hudson in mind. Continue writing, continue submitting, and when it is your time, watch what happens.
ACCEPT CRITICISM WITH STYLE
Anyone who’s watched the show has at one time or another asked, “Why are you letting Simon speak to you like that?” It’s a natural reaction to criticism. But most of the aspiring singers nod, smile, and many say, “Thank you.”
For most people this behavior boggles the mind, but writers understand this seemingly unbelievable response. As each rejection letter arrives, there’s an overwhelming urge to send a response to the editors and tell them just how utterly and completely wrong they really are.
But writers don’t this. They accept the criticism, and in many cases, they prove to the editor just how fine of a writer they are. After all who else but a truly talented writer can compose a sincere thank you note that eloquently states, “I appreciate your telling me what’s wrong with my work and that you aren’t going to publish it. And I hope that you get the opportunity to do this again in the near future.”
TRY A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Jennifer Hudson didn’t win American Idol, but that didn’t stop her from pursuing her dream. Instead, she used her talents to audition for a role in a film. Sure, it would require her singing skills, but she would use them differently. Sometimes writers need to remember their writing talents can be used in many different ways.
Novels and short stories are not the only venues for publication. Writers need to realize this and expand their horizons.
It’s been a long-held belief by writers that magazine credits improve the odds of getting a book published. Maybe. Maybe not. But in the pursuit of those credits, many writers have found careers and talents they didn’t know they had. And more than a few writers have eventually used those newfound gifts to create the book they always wanted to write.
TAKE HEART. IT COULD BE WORSE
So your work has been turned down a few times. Whose work hasn’t? But unlike that constant reminder following Jennifer Hudson’s success, publishing is a forgiving business. And failures or rejections, while they may end up as inspirational stories for future writers, are quickly pardoned and forgotten. So when that “someday” arrives and your writing receives the recognition you have always known it deserves, headlines won’t read HarperCollins Wannabe Wins the Caldecott or Random House Reject Nabs Newbery.
DON’T BE A SORE LOSER. BE A GRACIOUS WINNER.
Jennifer Hudson has never let an opportunity pass to thank American Idol for the role it played in her success. More likely than not, if she had won, her life would have been very different from what it is now.
Maybe she would have won a Grammy for her debut album, but it’s doubtful she would have had the time to audition for her role in Dreamgirls. The recognition she most certainly deserves might not have happened, if she had won the competition.
So, as a writer, if you can’t let go of the rejections, keep a list of all those who rejected your work. And when the honors finally do arrive, thank those people, publicly and sincerely, for saying, ”It’s not your time. Wait. Be patient.”If it hadn’t been for them, you would have never found the perfect editor at the perfect publisher who recognized that you were good enough, and it was your time.