For Those Writers Thinking Of Quitting

October 2, 2018 Literature , OTHER

Rey Seven photo




John Chizoba Vincent



I don’t care how many times you have been rejected by magazines and online journals, yes, I don’t care because it is normal to writers. I don’t care how many publication houses your manuscripts have gone to and that they bounced back to you dirty and rough. I know how it hurts because I have been in the same shoes as you are in right now. I have been rejected several times, one publisher/editor once throwing my manuscript at me. He said I was writing rubbish that he could not comprehend, and I was on my knees begging him to publish it. He then walked me out from his office. I have to sell many of my manuscripts to get one of my books published. Yes that was the only option I had then. I could not have done anything better than at that time.


One editor in one of the publishing houses in Lagos told me that I won’t go far in writing if I am not living abroad. Yes, I understood him very well. It is easier to push from abroad to Nigeria as a writer than to start or push from Nigeria. To become a writer here in Nigeria is an endless torment, an endless dreadful torture because no one cares about what you have written or what you have done. Your manuscripts remain on your shelf, no leave no transfer. Cockroaches make a meal of it, cobwebs build their homes on it. Each time you look to your shelf, you will see your treasure wasting because no one cares about it.  Editors will tell you what they told Kenneth Grahame: “An irresponsible holiday story that will never sell.” This might possibly be the most whimsical description ever of the adventures of Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger in the best-selling children’s tale The Wind In The Willows.


Kenneth Grahame could have given up when he was told that but thankfully he never did. He kept pushing until that book was published. So, I don’t care to know what they have told you as a writer, poet, author or novelist that you can’t make it beyond their level, don’t mind them, just push a little more. You don’t need to write like Chimamanda Adichie, you don’t need to horn your voice like Habila Helon, you don’t need to possess special strength or smoothness of tale like Tomi Adeyemi, Buchi Emecheta before you can be published and; you don’t have to sound like Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Chris Okigbo, and many of them to be known. You just have to be yourself. Yes, be your own weak self. Learn the art and keep moving at your own pace. You will be rejected, they will rape your sanity, abuse will come but never relent in your pursuit of happiness and joy in that thing that gives you joy.


Writing is a lifestyle in which you have to imbibe. No one sees your struggles, they only want the result. You never knew how Chimamanda Adichie got to where she is now. You never knew the struggles and pains she had to go through writing those books. Yes, she didn’t wake up one day and became this famous, she started from somewhere. She had sleepless nights, she was abused also, she was brave enough to stand her ground. Why do you want to quit because one magazine rejected you? Why? Do you know what you really carry within you?


If you are a writer, before you write, learn the rules of the language you deploy. Ignorance is not poetic licence.


Herman Melville’s masterpiece, Moby Dick, was turned down by multiple publishers, some of whom had creative suggestions for the author. Bentley & Son Publishing House wrote: “First, we must ask, does it have to be a whale? While this is a rather delightful, if somewhat esoteric, plot device, we recommend an antagonist with a more popular visage among the younger readers. For instance, could the Captain not be struggling with a depravity towards young, perhaps voluptuous, maidens?”


Melville nevertheless got his tale of futile revenge published—by none other than Richard Bentley, of Bentley & Son. (The American edition debuted less than a month later). That said, the author still made some serious sacrifices, paying for the typesetting and plating himself.


Ernest Hemingway was also rejected. The Sun Also Rises is perhaps Hemingway’s most widely read work, but not everyone was a fan. In 1925, Moberley Luger of publisher Peacock & Peacock wrote to the 26-year-old author: “If I may be frank — you certainly are in your prose — I found your efforts to be both tedious and offensive. You really are a man’s man, aren’t you? I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you had penned this entire story locked up at the club, ink in one hand, brandy in the other. Your bombastic, dipsomaniac, where-to-now characters had me reaching for my own glass of brandy.”


It’s a harsh assessment—though from what we know of Hemingway, it proposes a scenario that is not unlikely either. Still, this rejection hardly damaged his career. The novel would be published by Scribner’s the following year.


George Orwell: Sometimes fellow writers give the thumbs down. In 1944, T.S. Eliot was working at Faber & Faber and wrote a largely apologetic rejection of Animal Farm to George Orwell that included this appraisal: “… we have no conviction (and I am sure none of the other directors would) that this is the right point of view from which to criticise the political situation at the present time… Your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore the best qualified to run the farm—in fact, there couldn’t have been an animal farm at all without them: so that what was needed, (someone might argue), was not more communism but more public-spirited pigs.”


The work was rejected by at least four publishers before making it into print in August 1945.


H.G. Wells was told that his book was “An endless nightmare. I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book.” Despite this editor’s rejection on The War of The Worlds, the tale of alien invasion is still in print nearly 120 years later.


And this was what Kurt Vonnegut was told: “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 not one of them seems to us well adapted 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.” Sent to Kurt Vonnegut by a response to three writing samples, this is one of the more pleasant rejection letters. Vonnegut turned the Dresden bombing account into Slaughterhouse-Five.


And Marcel Proust was bashed with these words: “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.”


Rudyard Kipling got this kind of response from a newspaper editor: “…you just don’t know how to use the English language,” Kipling getting this response to a short story he pitched to a now-defunct newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner. He never give up with his quest as a writer.


Another example of writer-to-writer smacktalk. Hunter S. Thompson sent this doozy of a rejection to his biographer, William McKeen: “…you shit-eating freak. I warned you not to write that vicious trash about me — Now you better get fitted for a black eyepatch in case one of yours gets gouged out by a bushy-haired stranger in a dimly-lit parking lot. How fast can you learn Braille? You are scum.”


When D.H. Lawrence submitted his own book, he got this response: “…for your own sake do not publish this book.” D.H. Lawrence did not take this advice and Lady Chatterley’s Lover was soon published.


John Le Carré also got his own rejection letters but he never allowed that to hit him that was why his third book The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, which became an international best seller when published.


And Louisa May Alcott was told this: “Stick To Teaching.” Louisa May Alcott rejected this dismissive response to Little Women. It would be published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, and remains a classic nearly 150 years later.


Stephen King was told this: “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” Despite this feedback, Stephen King eventually published The Running Man under the pseudonym Richard Bachman.



Don’t quit as a writer, there are many people out there waiting to read you. There are many stories you still need to write because if you don’t write it, no one else will. Remain who you are: A Writer!





John Chizoba Vincent

John Chizoba Vincent is a cinematographer, filmmaker, music video director, poet and a writer. A graduate of mass communication, he believes in life and the substances that life is made of. He has three books published to his credit which includes Hard Times, Good Mama, Letter from Home. For boys of tomorrow is his first offering to poetry. He lives in Lagos.

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