Jack London Knew 650 Things About Rejection

Jack London didn’t just know a thing or two about rejection.

No. Jack London knew some 650 things about rejection. Which was the number of rejection slips he got. Most of which he impaled on a big, tall spindle next to his rented typewriter.

“Much too long for what it tells,” the American Agriculturist wrote him. “Same story and ideas could be expressed in fewer words.”

“Too tragic. We’re open to little love stories of 1,600 words.” This from Vogue.

The Atlantic liked his writing. But they wanted him to go by “John” not “Jack.” On that, Mr. London rejected them. And they rejected three of his short story submissions.

Mr. London knew despair (“miserable and half-sick” was how he put it), he knew discouragement – Hell, he was pruning hedges and beating carpets to pay his landlady. But he knew his will to write outsized both. “If I die,” he wrote, “I shall die hard, fighting until the last.”

And the fighter fought. When the San Francisco Bulletin rejected one of his stories, (“I don’t think it would pay us to buy your story,” they wrote), Mr. London sent it to Outing. Rejection. Then the San Francisco Examiner and Western Express. Rejection. Rejection. Then Buffalo Express. Who bought it.

The acceptances began to come. Slowly. And amid a lot of rejections – that big, tall spindle was four feet high and impaled full.

But Mr. London kept on fighting, kept on writing. And he wrote his way to White Fang and Call of the Wild and The Sea-Wolf.

So, the fighter knew 650 things about rejection. But he also knew one thing about his will to write. Which was that it outsized those rejections. All four feet of them.

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