National Writing Project

Jennifer Bradbury: Why I Write

Date: January 27, 2016

Summary: Jennifer Bradbury, author of young adult novels and a member of our Writers Council, explains how rejection actually centers her as a writer and inspires her to keep going.


Jen Bradbury

Vist Jennifer's website...

I write to make sense of things. I write because I can't scratch that creative itch any other way. I write because I love the challenge of trying to make the idea in my head come alive on the page. I write because when I taught high school English, I wanted to show my students that writing was something that mattered to me enough to struggle with it, not just teach them about. And I began writing fiction for kids and young adults because I wanted to see if I could find a place in that wide, wonderful sea and voices and characters that drew me in as a reader.

But as much as why I write matters, there's another question lurking right beside it that matters just as much.

Why do I keep writing?

I wrote two complete novels that were soundly rejected by a variety of publishers before I broke through with my third book. At the time, those two novels felt like the best work I'd ever do. I was afraid they might be the only good ideas I'd ever have. So when I sent them off and began collecting rejections like junk mail, it was heartbreaking. I thought about giving up. Maybe I was kidding myself that I'd ever find a publisher who would be willing to take a chance on me and one of my stories. There were dark days when I counted up the time and work and hope that had been seemingly wasted on these projects. I almost shelved my own goals and dreams for my writing.

Somehow, I didn't. At the time I would have just said it was stubbornness or delusion that kept me going. But now I see it for what it really was.

Rejection, defeat, and dashed dreams clarified my real purpose for writing; they centered me and kept me going. Because those hard masters taught me that I loved telling stories more than I hated people telling me they weren't good enough yet.

It's a milestone that every writer—published or not—must reach at some point. And it's a milestone I revisit every time I start a new project, every time my work garners a less than enthusiastic review from a writing group colleague or a professional journal. But when we find that sweet spot, when we love to write more than we hate the possibility of failure or the disappointment of rejection, we really can't lose.

So write. And keep writing.

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