The Wallpapering Method to Coping with Rejection Letters

Ray Bradbury famously wrote a story a week. It was impossible, he insisted, to write 52 bad stories in a row.

Bradbury is one of my writing heroes, so this is an approach I admire and strive to emulate. So when I found a quote from Bradbury on Pinterest offering some advice about submissions and getting published, I paid attention.

As it happens, I can’t find any other source to corroborate that Bradbury ever gave the advice I stumbled across. But I’m sharing it just the same, because I think the heart of the directive remains true, if a little out-of-the-box:

“Pick a room in your house and paper it with rejection slips. By the time you’ve papered it,
you’ll have gotten published. And, actually, it won’t take the whole room.”

the wallpapering method to coping with rejection letters

Even if Bradbury never said, I understand where the association came from. At the heart of this advice is the same core truth that is at the heart of many Bradbury writing quotes: the message that success in writing is merely inevitable—if you keep at it long enough.

But quotes can feel simplistic and even trite–allow me to break it down into five simple steps:

1. Write a story.

Since under the Ray Bradbury approach we write a story every week, we should be able to find one somewhere. Pick up one of your favorites, dust it off, and give it a nice edit. Or, write a new one!

2. Pick a room.

Pick a room, any room. Preferably a large one, in need of a makeover.

3. Submit.

Submit your story over and over and over. Submit to as many appropriate publications as you can find. Submit just for submissions’ sake. Because when you submit, you get something truly exciting: Rejection letters!

4. Apply rejection letters to previously selected room.

Here is where we take action toward our goal: Use the rejection letters to re-paper the walls of your chosen room. As you can see, it’s critical that we continue to submit our stories to more and more publications, even as rejection letters come in, so we can finish redecorating the room.

5. Revel at your story in print.

At some point, your story will find the its way to just the right editor. When you keep working and submitting, and don’t give up, it’s just inevitable. Ray Bradbury himself says so. Or at least someone out there thought he did.

This message of persistence isn’t exactly a new one, but I love this approach to it.

By providing an alternate goal, this process takes some of your focus off the negative results (the rejections) and puts a positive spin on it … and reminds us that those rejections are simply an inevitable part of the journey.

So hang in there! Success it right around the corner. But even if it takes you a while to get there, at least you’ll have a very nice looking publishing-themed room to enjoy.

What publications can you get rejection letters from?


Do a little research—how many places can you think of to submit your work? Do some online research and share your favorite publications and research tools in the comments. Don’t forget to support each other in your journeys by responding to others’ comments, too!

About Emily Wenstrom

By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, a sci-fi and fantasy author whose first novel Mud will release in March 2016.

  • D. D. Syrdal

    Gawd I love Ray. I don’t care if he said it or not, it sounds like something he’d say and it’s good advice. 🙂

  • Gary G Little

    I think the best line I have heard was “Don’t you just wonder what all the publishing houses thought that had rejected Frnak Herbert’s Dune.

  • Deanna Fugett

    This is great. I might just do it.

  • I have the room. Now to buy stamps.
    Do you have a room picked out in your new place in Florida? I am excited to see what you do on your new adventure. 🙂

  • Gary G Little

    Oh woe is me! No prompt yesterday, so no new story or epiphany.
    So today I can say it’s TWP’s fault, for not providing me that start.

    Actually all that is bunk. Tain’t anyones fault if I didn’t write, that’s my fault, and I own it. However, I did write. I worked on a new story from another source of prompts that I have been using, polished another, and posted it on my WordPress page. It is so easy to find an excuse to not do something and slough the blame away from our selves. Does posting a story to my WordPress account, count as a place to submit? Ok, maybe I could send myself a rejection letter. 🙂

  • Debby Hanoka

    I would do that, but I have three editorial cat-sistants depending on me so it’s more efficient to line the litter boxes with the rejection letters…

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