Rejection Throughout History: Christopher Columbus

That was the best weekend I've had in a long, long time. But now it's over and today is Monday...

For my English class, I had to write an essay on lessons that can be learned from Christopher Columbus' life. One of the lessons I addressed was:

Don't let rejection stop you.

When Columbus conceived the idea to find a trading route by sailing west from Europe to Asia, he needed funding. So he went first to the king of Portugal, King John II. The king listened to Columbus' proposal and passed it on to a committee. They denied his request, citing that it was too expensive, Columbus was wrong in his estimates on the distances and measurements, and that his plan conflicted with Portugal's desire for a trade route that went around Africa.

Columbus could've given up there. But instead he picked up his young son and moved to Spain. There, the Spanish monarchs were too preoccupied with a war against the Moors to really listen to his proposal. Queen Isabella was fascinated by Columbus and paid him a small salary over his years of following the court, but she alone wasn't enough for him to gain approval for his journey. After two years of waiting, Columbus was able to present his idea to another committee and was rejected for the second time.

Columbus then proceeded to follow the Spanish monarchs around in their wartime travels while he sent his brother to the courts of England and France to present his idea. His brother's attempts were unsuccessful and for awhile, Columbus' seemed to be going the same way. In the final weeks of 1491, Columbus presented his idea to the monarchs for the final time and was once again refused, this time due to his increased demands.

Fortunately for Columbus and the world, Luis de Santangel, the king's treasurer, was able to convince the monarchs to reverse their decision and a few weeks of negotiations later, Columbus had funding for his historic voyage.

And just like that, the world was changed forever. I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if Columbus had given up after King John or after a couple of years of listening to the Spanish court refuse him. What America would be like.

History books don't really mention the struggle Columbus went through to make his dream a reality and that's a shame. He didn't just walk into the Spanish court, present his idea, and smile as they threw ships and supplies at him.

He worked for eight years before he finally got the funding for his project. he withstood eight years of rejection before he saw any sort of return.

Now think of the kings as editors and the committees as the editorial board. The editors might not be at war with each other, but they might be distracted by their other clients. Or they might be like King John and not feel like your book is right for the times.

So those of you struggling with writing, revising, or querying, think of Columbus and just keep trucking. Because someday it will all pay off. You'll find the monarchs that believe in your story just as much as you do, and then you'll be casting off.


Erin said…
Great comparison and similarities. Thanks for the reminder to keep on keepin' on!

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