This Message is Approved by…Who?

So a few weeks ago I submitted a proposal to an agent. As part of my Do year, I’d been working on this and I felt like it was pretty solid.

It was turned down.

The agent was very complimentary. She gave me positive feedback on my writing voice. She made some suggestions regarding platform and marketing. But ultimately she said that she was going to pass on this project. There were a couple of reasons, but the one that stuck with me is that she said that my proposal was “too soft.”

In my desire to have something that I thought might be approved by the masses, I wrote something that wasn’t good. The pieces were fine, but when it came down to it, I chickened out. Instead of writing the way I write, I opted for safety. Instead of writing in specifics about things that matter to me, I couched things in more socially acceptable terms. I sought approval, and I got rejection.

This is an easy trap to fall into.

We buy the right clothes. We say the right things. We follow the right traditions. We hang out with the cool kids.

In trying to gain approval, we can lose bits of ourselves. We make this small compromise. We tell that small lie. We keep our mouths closed about injustice. We close our eyes to inequality.

We do all of the things that we hope will gain approval. But if we’re not giving our honest selves, even if we succeed, that success isn’t for us. Instead, it’s for someone who doesn’t really exist.

I’m back to the drawing board with the proposal. I’m tearing apart something that I liked and shaping it into something that I love. I’m giving up on trying to appeal to the masses and focusing on simply writing out my story in a more raw and honest way.

No matter how that turns out, at least that’s something that has my approval.


Have you sought approval and received rejection? What do you do to stop worrying about approval and start accepting your own story?


This is part of the One Word at a Time Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. You can read more submissions and add your own here.

  • Tara_pohlkottepress

    this is great – - not that your work was rejected, but that you are turning it into something that motivates you on. As someone just dipping into the writing world myself, this is a great reminder to find rejections that will most certainly come, and let it shape me into a sharper focus of myself.

    • Alise Wright

      The fact that it was about the nicest rejection in the whole world certainly helps keep things in perspective. It’s much harder to take when it’s presented in a less kind manner.

  • Dawn Paoletta

    Oh, my. I am working on this, approval thing. I think the desire to become “published” leads us right back to the gym lockers of High School! Suddenly we are in our skivvies feeling naked, exposed and fearful! We just say what we mean to say EXACTLY the way we were originally inspired…without shrinking back. Hard. I sometimes reject myself
     (my writing)   before I give anyone else the chance…not sure which is worse. Good post to chew on…working on a couple of things. And I did actually recently write something which was rejected, all because I left out a certain Spiritual component, trying to hit the mark, which in the end was adjusted/corrected to include that which I left out! Grrrr. ;)

    • Alise Wright

      Oh, rejecting yourself is worse. But I think when we share less than what we intend, we are already doing that to some degree. I “know” that some of what I want to write is NOT okay with a chunk of people in the church, so I just edited it out before it had a chance to be rejected. Which resulted in the whole thing being rejected! And there you go!

      • amy

        I am fascinated to have stumbled onto this blog. I have really been suffering in realizing how alone I am in the church regarding some of my observations.

        I wanted to share that Jonathan Welton’s blog (Rogue Theologian) last week defined self-control not as the ability to not sin, but “better expressed as ‘being the only one who determines your responses in life.’”

        Wow, this really struck me. At the heart of my frustration and hesitance is both a fear of rejection and not knowing how to respond to popular and shortsighted concepts within the church. I let that confusion control me instead of being the one who determines my responses.

        I feel a real comraderie in what I read here. For everyone reading your blog, may this little band of hopefuls grow in Self-Control and bring revelation of God far and wide in the church and the world. Bless you.

  • kim

    Looking forward to the raw and real…of course, it will be well written, as always.

    I, for one, want to hear what you really think, feel and have come to know deep in your person. Please don’t hold back…I need to hear what you have to say. 

    I know it’s not easy…I struggle with this everyday. 

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks Kim! Around here I’m less inhibited, but as soon as I started thinking “bigger” I shrank back. I just need to remember this is still the audience.

      And being the real us is often tough. And always worth it.

  • Christie

    This post really spoke to me.  I am currently in the process of polishing up a proposal for a non-fiction book I am writing.  I fully expect to have it get rejected, but I also will be crushed when it does.  I feel the same way when I put up a blog post that gets little traffic or comments.  Feels like rejection.  I am s…l…o…w…l…y accepting the fact that I am writing for me and not everyone else.

    • Alise Wright

      Oh, I understand! It stinks when you post something that you hope will move people and it just sits there. My instinct is to see how I can fix it, and as a result, I end up just messing it all up. So bizarre! 

  • Lisa notes

    “We do all of the things that we hope will gain approval. But if we’re
    not giving our honest selves, even if we succeed, that success isn’t for
    us. Instead, it’s for someone who doesn’t really exist.”

    These are great words of wisdom. Yes, it is so easy to fall into that approval trap. Thanks for helping us avoid it!

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks Lisa! It’s one I’ve been in many times!

  • Lisa Colón DeLay

    This is so tough! The proposal stuff is so hard, b/c it’s not like whatever you are writing. It’s all sales stuff. In the end you aren’t writing for anyone but accountants. Jeff Goins has some great strategies that might help you. “writing what you want to until you get to publish what you want to” type of stuff. May you be encouraged to continue walking in your calling to communicate and play a special part in what God is up to! (I let my agent go, not b/c he was bad, he’s actually famous…a “rainmaker”. But trying to please pub boards with what they wanted to hear was sucking the life out of what I wanted to write. I got stuck. What looked like a stupid thing to do, gave me new freedom and helped exponentially.) So, write for yourself first (your true voice). When you do, an audience will pick up on it and gather. (not the other way around, gather by pandering and then write) blessings, sister. 

    I think you rock.

    • Alise Wright

      Thanks Lisa! It’s funny – I’ve become a lot more honest here, but as soon as I started writing the query/proposal, I softened everything. What made me laugh was that when she sent me the rejection and suggestions on what might make a better book, her suggestions were exactly what I was going for. I had just couched it in language that seemed more acceptable. So I just need to write what I wanted to write in the first place!

  • HopefulLeigh

    I’m so sorry to hear about the rejection, Alise. But I have faith in you and that your next attempt will be fully you and fully kick awesome!

    Reading this was just what I needed today. Tomorrow I’m launching a new series called The Insecurity Project and it kind of terrifies me. Not so much what I’ve written in the post but what it means I’ll be writing about in coming months. The thing is, my insecurities aren’t based in truth and I don’t want to be tripping up on them anymore. So I can’t worry about how other people are going to respond to this series. I know it’s what I’m meant to write about next and that it will be good for my soul, no matter if it resonates with others or not.

    • Alise Wright

      Aw thanks. Honestly, it really was about the nicest rejection ever and since her suggestions on a different angle were what I was going for in the first place, I still feel encouraged, even in the midst of the rejection. 

      I look forward to reading your posts! I think those honest ones ARE the ones that resonate with other people. Even if they disagree, it stirs SOMETHING. We’ll just have to encourage one another in that!

  • Adrian Waller

    It’s like you read my mind or something – I just blogged about fitting in yesterday.

    I’ve figured out in my short years of life that if I’m not me, I’m a fake, and nobody likes a fake. Of course, when you have a chance to take a risk (like a proposal to an agency), that’s a lot easier said than done, but still…

    Congrats on DOing, though. I finally figured out an idea for something that I think would make a great book this weekend. Now I actually need to start DOing something about it.

    • Alise Wright

      Yup. Even if we’re just editing out parts of ourselves, it’s not going to work. It might not be fake, exactly, but it still isn’t REAL. 

      Good luck to you in your own doing! It feels good!

  • Caitlin

    I know you’re not looking for approval here, but much love coming your way anyway! 

    • Alise Wright

      Thank you! (And I’ll take approval anywhere it’s offered, especially if it’s given freely!)

  • Addie Zierman

    Loved this. What I appreciate is the way you’re forging on…taking the criticism in the spirit it was meant and using it to, as you said so beautifully, create something you LOVE. Can’t wait to read your book someday.

    • Alise Wright

      Yeah, this was truly constructive criticism. That is something that is really just beautiful. And I hope that it will make a future book much better.

  • HisFireFly

    Yes.. true to ourselves and to thr words He provides…


    • Alise Wright

      Absolutely. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Dan Brennan

    Wow. Where do I begin? Especially as I sought to publish SUSP? There was a huge temptation to take a short-cut on the controversial elements in order to win approval. I have been disappointed with those who have “rejected” it. On the other hand, to fully embrace my story and my passion I learned to release it to God. It’s such a gift when people read and get it and are not frightened by it.

    • Alise Wright

      I’m so thankful for your willingness to write the hard parts. It’s an important book and I’m glad that you did what was necessary to get it out there!

  • Cara Gabrielse

    thanks for this; I’m tearing apart something that I liked and shaping it into something that I love. I’m giving up on trying to appeals to the masses and focusing on simply writing out my story in a more raw and honest way.

    i have to say though, i struggle sometimes with the opposite – trying to say what i feel would be the most encouraging, God honoring thing, and not get too raw or controversial just to drive blog traffic. i know i could use words and terms that might be my more natural voice, and might get me a spike out of curiosity (wow the Christian girl is cussing, or laying it all bare) but i wonder if my motives are volume and not just authenticity.

    it’s a constant debate that goes on in my head before i hit send. 

    • Alise Wright

      Oh, I understand that. There are lots of controversial things that I let go because I know that my motives are not good. I think I’m pretty good at sorting those out now, but when it’s been a bad run, it’s very tempting to pad the numbers by tossing up a “sure-fire” post filled with the controversy du jour. But you’re right. That’s not authentic either.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jentona10

    What a valuable lesson you have been taught. From the tone of this post I bet it will stick and not have to be learned again. I am certain you will put it into daily practice. When I began telling stories I realized that I was telling the story God had written for me and I gave Him all rights of expression and as my husband Tony reminds me “We serve a bold God!” Write your heart out!

  • J. R. Nova

    I love how you use writing to springboard into life in general. At least that’s what I took out of it. We’ve got to stay true to ourselves no matter what we do, or ask the question “Is it worth even doing?”

  • Joanne Norton

    One of my frequent thoughts and views is that, in our present-day culture and world situation, if we are walking with the Lord and seeking His focus on what’s happening, we will usually NOT be approved by the vast majority of people.  One of my blessings?  I’m not working any more and rarely in a position that I have to fit into someone else’s organization that might head a different direction.  I try to be reasonably oriented in many ways, but I can’t cave to their ungodly direction.  Your example is exactly right.  It takes courage and inflexibility.  Think you’ve got that “gift”… challenging as it can be.

  • Hazel Irene Moon

    Thank you for this post.  Gathering my stories to compile them into a book, I determined not to be soft.  At my church when I share – - they tell me not to preach too much.  For my book, the stories must have something to think about, so I plan to leave those words about Jesus there.  Yes, I will end up self publishing, because I am chicken to submit to a publication.  DiggyPOD will publish 100 books for a reasonable price. 

  • Chad Jones

    I’m so sorry to hear of this rejection. I remember a similar event several years ago in my own life. I didn’t take it well. I stopped writing.

    Stupid me–I can’t not write. It’s who I am.

    When the sting of the rejection has passed over you, you will still be you; in fact, you will be stronger. You will have learned, and your proposal will shine.

  • Kevin Haggerty

    Great post Alise. It’s such a fine line between being careful not to offend, but trying so hard to do so that our messages gets neutered (or spayed? :)). 

  • RawFaith

    Have you ever read the great book on being creative called “Ignore everybody?”  I always think about that book when I’m doing too much editing of the thought bubbles. I’ve made a living my whole adult life being creative, and I’ve learned that so much of it boils down to individual taste. When I was doing album covers I would do a shoot I thought the artst would love and they hated it… and then I would do another and think I needed to reshoot it and they loved it. I think when we create what is really us… the market will find us. I would much rather read Anne Lamott than most christian writers. I think it’s funny too that most christain publishers passed on the Shack and he ended up basically self publishing at first and has sold four bizillion copies. Rejection is just part of the creative process… Like you, when it does happen to me I try to learn from it and move on. :)  I would add that your writing so totally rocks in your own voice.

  • Nancy Franson

    Just found you through Pete Pollock’s writing carnival. I am all too guilty of writing, at times, for a specific person or audience. I seek the approval of individuals rather than remembering I’m writing for an audience of One.

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