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Empty pens and rejections signify putting in the work
Empty pens and rejections signify putting in the work

Empty pens and rejections signify putting in the work

Sunday, February 18, 2024

With varying degrees of frustration, I really dislike when I’m writing something while my pen runs out of ink. Argh! If I have another pen on hand (which is usually the case), it’s not the worst. If it’s my only pen without another one instantly available, that’s like Hulk Smash-level frustration. Sometimes, I’ll just keep writing with my inkless pen to finish my thought, hoping I can go back later and etch over it with a pencil, just like in the mystery and detective stories. And sometimes, I try to get to a new pen as quickly as possible to attempt tracing those letter impressions.

As much as running out of ink annoys me, I want to experience more of it. It’s a sign that I’m actually doing the work of writing. If my pen weren’t being used, it wouldn’t be running out of ink. So, that’s one of my goals for 2024 — more empty ink pens. More moments of aggressively shaking my scribing utensil or sucking hard on the writing end, hoping to coax a few more sentences worth of ink droplets into the ballpoint, allowing it to grace my page with more thought manifestations.

In addition to tallying up more empty pens this year, I’m seeking more rejection. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but the more rejections I receive, the more it means that I’m putting myself out there. Author Stephen King has spoken about how he kept his growing mountain of rejection slips on a nail, but by the time he turned 14 years old, the nail could no longer hold the weight of all of his rejections. So, he replaced it with a railroad tie, and he kept moving forward, collecting more and more rejections. Legend has it that King threw “Carrie” into the trash after many rejections, and his wife rescued the iconic tale from the garbage, convincing him not to give up. Maybe there were some pork chops in the bin which gave him the idea for the pig’s blood? Who knows! But thank goodness, his story was salvaged so that we can collectively never look at prom the same way again!

Though the number varies in different accounts, I once heard that Kathryn Stockett, author of the bestselling novel “The Help,” received seventy-two rejections before she found a publisher that helped her book thrive for more than 100 weeks as a New York Times bestseller. That number stood out to me because of the year-round temperature of the San Marcos River, but also because… whoa…that’s a whole lot of rejections.

They say “it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all,” and I certainly believe there’s truth in trying. “You’ll never know if you don’t try” has a similar sentiment as well as “If at first, you don’t succeed…try, try again.”

So, this year, I am determined to use up more pens and hear a lot more of the word no. I’m hoping all this end-of-ink frustration and gut-wrenching rejection will lead me to more yeses, but I won’t know unless I try.

For 2024, let’s embrace rejection like a badge of honor. Rather than shy away, let’s seek it out with enthusiasm and determination. Let’s get out of our own way and refuse to let fear of failure hold us back. With the powers of telekinesis, let’s pull our versions of Carrie out of the dumpster and persevere through rejection. It’s the only way forward. Fall down six times, stand up seven.


Kelly Stone is an educator, comedian, mother, and author who loves the heck outta the river. She welcomes e-letters at or kellystonecomedy@gmail. com and adores handwritten notes and postcards via good ol’ snail mail.

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