Inspired by WD-40

In 1953 a fledgling business called Rocket Chemical Company set out to create a rust-prevention solvent for use in the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to get the formula right.

Voila! WD-40, which stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt.

I find that inspiring! What if they’d given up on number 39? Then I wouldn’t have my favorite solution for unsticking locks and making my sliding glass doors actually slide.

WD-40 Your Manuscripts

No, don’t spray the greasy mist on your manuscript. But do take the WD-40 as your slogan. Don’t stop revising and submitting until you also have tried many, many times!

In order to spur myself on to submit several book manuscripts that I had “retired” after just two rejections, I was reading in Ralph Keyes’ The Writer’s Book of Hope. I was encouraged by some very famous “WD-40″ kinds of authors who would have remained nameless if they’d given up so early.

  • Despite being represented by a top literary agent and being read by prominent editors, John Knowles’s A Separate Peace was rejected by every major American publisher who saw it. (It was published in London.)
  • Other famous books that went through multiple rejects include: Look Homeward, Angel; Love Story; A Wrinkle in Time; All Things Bright and Beautiful and many other novels that became classics and continue to sell decades later.
  • Twenty major publishers thought Chicken Soup for the Soul had no commercial prospects, despite the authors¬†being experienced speakers and aggressive marketers.
  • Stephen King’s first four novels and sixty short stories were rejected.

Having your work turned down is no fun, and I won’t sing the praises of being rejected. I hate it too. But we must come to terms with it, accept it as part of the writing life,¬†accept criticism if it has merit, and get on with it.

A Necessary Part

As Keyes puts it, “To working writers, rejection is like stings to a beekeeper: a painful but necessary part of their vocation.”

And now…in the spirit of the inventers of WD-40, I’m getting back to my umpteenth revision.

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4 Responses to Inspired by WD-40

  1. Karin Larson says:

    Great post, Kristi! Thanks for the reminder. Persistence and perseverance are so very important!

    • kwpadmin says:

      Hi, Karin! Yes, that is so true. The only real difference in successful writers is that they refused to quit. It seldom comes down to talent as much as it does to plain old grit. :-)

  2. My middle name was changed when I became a writer. My full name was Allia Louise Zobel Nolan. Now it’s Allia Persistence Zobel Nolan. I can’t say a rejection doesn’t get me down at all; I’m not that evolved…yet. But, for some reason, when a thanks-but-we-already-have-something-(and if we don’t we’ll use your idea) like-this-already email comes in, it spurs me on. It’s almost like I have something to prove. Okay, you don’t like it, but I know someone who will. Then I get cracking and try to find that someone. Then, there are the proposals I store away and bring them out in a year or two and, thanks be to God, I get takers. Go figure. Anyway, loved the article. Will share.

    • kwpadmin says:

      Allia, you have exactly the type of attitude a writer needs to be successful. It’s good to develop it early on, as most writers experience going through cycles every few years when nothing much is selling, but the following year everything stashed in the drawer finds a home. By the way, I’m not “evolved” enough not to care either! Don’t expect I ever will be. :-)

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