Roadblock Ahead

January 25, 2019 § 28 Comments

suzanne guessBy Suzanne Guess

I am a woman of a certain age. If you’re that age too, you know what age I’m talking about. Let’s just say I have more years behind me than ahead of me. When I reached that age, I took some time to reflect on what I’ve done, haven’t done, and still want to do. As a result, I picked up my flute again after a twenty-year hiatus, dyed my hair purple, and earned an MFA.

I have a corporate job in the financial services industry and have been writing my entire professional career. It’s not the kind of writing that is submitted to literary journals, though—reports, business cases, statements of work, among others. Everyone raves about my writing, and some of my status reports are fabulous works of creative nonfiction (and sometimes fiction). I’ve had some success publishing in a regional antiques journal, my pieces often getting front page above-the-fold status. Surely I would have the same measure of writing success with literary publishing, right?


Rejections. Lots of them. I’ve heard the advice: Don’t take it personally! Keep submitting! It’s a numbers game! Aim for 100, 300, or more rejections in a year! Easy for you, with your seventeen published pieces and a book deal, to say. With each rejection, Over-Think-It-Me whispers to Rational-Me, An editor just face palmed herself and handed your essay to another editor and said, Did you see this crap? or, She doesn’t use quotation marks. Who does she think she is, James Joyce?

When another rejection arrives in my inbox, often at times like my birthday, vacation, Christmas, or a week that’s already had a lousy start, I dig deep into my day job until I feel like I can face the page again—usually a few days. I’m super productive at work during that time and find creative ways to navigate the project roadblocks that land in my path (accelerating the project schedule, changing resource allocations, competing business agendas). It occurred to me one day that maybe I could apply that creative problem solving to rejections that are sometimes the only email I get.

I came up with this: rejection as a writing roadblock. My objective is to publish my work, and a rejection is the roadblock to achieving that objective. The roadblock isn’t impenetrable; it’s something to negotiate around or through. It’s something I can try to solve for by finding a home that’s a better fit for the piece, getting some additional feedback, or shelving it for a while. Thinking of a rejection as a writing roadblock also removes the negative connotation that sends Rational-Me into a conversation with Over-Think-It-Me and usually ends in a downward spiral and a half gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream.

I stopped writing New Year’s Resolutions a few years ago because “eat and drink more” and “gain weight” are generally frowned upon and don’t really fit with the “new year, new me” model. I didn’t make any resolutions for 2019, but I did set a goal: get 110 writing roadblocks (two roadblocks per week, arbitrarily rounded up).  At work, I don’t allow roadblocks to derail my progress and I certainly don’t skip work for three days to sulk because I got called out for not adequately addressing a project risk. I show up the next day. So when another writing roadblock pops into my inbox, I’ll show up to the page the next day and figure out how to solve the problem because there are at least 110 roadblocks ahead.

I’m testing this hypothesis with this blog post, my first submission of 2019. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Suzanne Guess is a freelance writer and project manager for a large financial institution although she is bad at math. She is a fifth generation Iowan. When she’s not writing, Suzanne plays flute respectably but not expertly in a wind ensemble, and wanders antique shows and auctions searching for a working vintage Easy Bake Oven. She is a big fan of fancy pens, Doritos, and Coke. Read more at



§ 28 Responses to Roadblock Ahead

  • Cheryl says:

    I like the word “roadblocks”. It doesn’t have the sting of ‘rejection’.

  • Thanks for this, Ms. Guess. We’re rising, we “tipsters” (our years tipped, ever so slightly toward soft, moist earth). If ever you find two Easy Bake Ovens, I’m your gal.

  • Loved this! A great reframe for rejection, and for diving deeper and finding renewed determination. Good luck!

  • Monica Graff says:

    Love this. Thank you for a good laugh this morning. I hope you find more unobstructed paths to publishing your work. And I hope you find that Easy Bake Oven too! I haven’t seen one of those since, well, my own.

    • Suzanne Guess says:

      Thanks for reading! The Easy Bake Oven…I have an essay about my struggles with that thing that has had several roadblocks. LOL

  • dennyho says:

    Love your positive spin. Very motivating!

  • Anna Pattison says:

    So glad to see this out in the world. Beautifully written. Honest, humble, and hilarious.

  • Denise Howell says:

    Self reflective, honest, and inspiring!

  • Pope Brock says:

    Good stuff. Thank you. Among other useful things you’ve given me a new way of looking at my life with the phrase “not adequately addressing a project risk.” That’s it! That’s what I’ve been doing wrong over and over my whole life.

  • simplymala says:

    Lovely one. Honest and heartfelt. Its roadblocks…nothing else. Thanks for showing me a better way to look at life.

  • Sandra says:

    Well said. I have a feeling you’ll be figuring out how to deal with all of those writing roadblocks in a way that keeps you moving forward.

  • DeDee Birdsall says:

    So good, Suzanne. I loved every bit of it!

  • 1WriteWay says:

    This is perfect. In my day job, I’m always faced with roadblocks. I work in state government so some of those roadblocks are obvious (no money, no staff, but we’re mandated to do the project anyway). Seeing rejections as roadblocks definitely makes them seem less threatening and more manageable. Another writer once said that she deals with rejections by having more of her work ready to submit. So when she receives a rejection, she deals with it by sending out another submission. She just doesn’t stop. That’s also key, and something you note as well. At work, we still show up the next day even if we made a huge blunder on our project. It should be the same with our writing, no matter how many times we are rejected.

  • epmjd says:

    PRETTY DARN ACCURATE – DEAR LADY. I am an over the hill lawyer with the same attitude adjustment problem. I am always reminded of T.S. Eliot’s line from “Murder in the Cathedral,” “Humankind can not bear very much reality.” THAT GOES FOR EDITORS TOO. Keep writing well and ignore the crickets (critics). Eddie

    • epmjd says:

      “Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind
      Cannot bear very much reality.
      Time past and time future
      What might have been and what has been
      Point to one end, which is always present.”

      I was clearly incorrect in my quotation – it is from “Burnt Norton” instead.

  • gamedaddy says:

    Don’t worry about the rejections at all. Just write about what you enjoy the most, and your fans will flock to you. All of the most successful writers pretty much completely ignored their critics. Also, one great book I read last year was Stephen King’s novel he did about writing, “On Writing, by Stephen King.”, …worth your time if you have a bit of time to read.

  • Go ahead LADY the life is one what motivate a human is what is important I JUST START RIGHT NOW HERE IS MY FIRST TIME I AM WRITER HISTORIC NOVEL IN SPANISH I AM CUBAN NICE TO MEET YOU

  • rbook46 says:

    Bravo for you! Do what makes you feel good, not what others expect you to do. I admire that you were a flout-est. I was blessed to play the flute with a southern rock band in the 70’s. What else was a sax / guitar player going to do in those days.
    Maybe, we crossed paths back then.
    It was great to read your story.

  • avnitagarg says:

    I just loved what you said

  • rsrook says:

    My New Year’s resolution is always “grow older” and “fail”. I’m always successful at the getting older part. Which means I fail at the failing part, meaning I’ve succeeded which is to have failed and therefore achieved my goal. It’s fool-proof and I feel pretty accomplished. It works with trying to get published too–you win either way. Keep truckin’

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