In a recent op-ed piece in “The New York Tines,” famed cartoonist Liza Donnelly wrote about having broken her right arm.

Hospitals are filled with people with broken bones, but in Donnelly’s case it threatened her entire career. She realized it might be a long while before she could use her right hand to draw her humorous pieces.

Most people would have caved in to self-pity – or fallen into a cookie or alcohol binge. But Donnelly chose a better alternative: her other hand. Born right-handed, she had never used her left hand creatively, but it was her only option. Trying to draw with her left hand she found the cartoons were “looser,” she said – more like the first ones she’d done as a child. Was that amateur hand tapping into her “orginal creativity”?  Obviousdly it tapped into something – because one of those left-handed cartoons was published by “The New Yorker.”

The point isn’t that we should all break an arm to become creative,. It’s that Donnelly refused to be disarmed (pun intended) by an accident but,instead,  to find some way to continue with her art.

Her comparatively brief experience with disability pales beside Christy Brown, the writer-artist whose life was dramatized in the 1989 film “My Left Foot.” Born with cerebral palsy that made it impossible for him to control his body – except for his left foot – Christy won out over what would have been understandable despair. He used the big toe on that foot to write and draw, incredibly becoming a notable author and artist.

This blog is not a rallying cry for using our left side, although that’s reputedly the creative part of us. It’s a way of pointing out that with enough determination impossible can become possible . Nor is this limited to writers and painters. Could a composer who has become totally deaf possibly create music?  Fortunately Beethoven didn’t listen to naysayers. Couldn’t listen – not because of his hearing loss – but because within him was a fierce and unbeatable  need to create. Of course, this deaf musician went on to compose some of the world’s greatest music.

There’s another “handicap,” if I may use that word. It doesn’t involve broken or paralyzed bones, and it can’t be wrapped in a splint. It’s the voice within us that whispers, Give up …no agent will reply…this will never be published…you can’t even write well anymore . .. on and on endlessly. That’s the disabling self we have to overcome. I’ve asked numerous writer friends what they do in those dark moments. The response is usually a shrug and the terse,“I keep writing.”

The choice for each of us is whether to give up or to go on. Fate may throw us a curve, but we’re the only ones who can defeat ourselves!

BOOKS: Widow’s Walk – available through; Turning Toward Tomorrow –; Ten Women of Valor and Role Play –; also Amazon Kindle.


Your submission does not meet our current needs. Why do so many editors use that same message? Can’t they come up with something more original? I’m often tempted to reply, “Your rejection doesn’t meet my needs!”

Actually that form rejection says iit more clearly than the unfathomable turndowns, like one I got recently from a well-known magazine. The message informed me that the staff “enjoyed” the story and the “wonderful” writing, but “we aren’t going to publish it.”  No explanation. It sounds like the familiar dating line, “you’re great but…”

At least these forms acknowledge our existence, unlike the snail mail submissions where the self-addressed envelope comes back without even the courtesy of a rejection slip. I once tried the ploy of phoning the editor of a top magazine to ask – all innocence! – if the absence of a form meant the story was accepted. “Someone forgot to include the rejection slip,” he said, “but I’ll be glad to read you what it says.”

It isn’t only editors who use format replies, agents are just as unimaginative. Usually we’re informed that he or she has to “fall in love” with a manuscript and,obviously didn’t. The standard postscript is to assure us another agent might “love” our work. So where is that mythical agent, in outer space?

Do the interns routinely assigned to read submissions really go beyond the first paragraph? I tested this several times by inserting a slip of blank paper between the pages. Each time the manuscript returned with that telltale piece of paper intact.

Since rejections seem built into our profession, what are we to do? Give up? Throw our manuscript into the wastebasket? (Tennessee Williams tried that, but his far-sighted agent rescued ”The Glass Menagerie” from the trash!)  We can remind ourselves that Harry Potter was repeatedly turned down  by numerous  publishers. We can even paper our room with rejection slips, as a woman I know did. (The ultimate in masochism?)

The best strategy for me came wrapped in the advice a fellow writer offered years ago. He suggested that each time I send out a story I should simultaneously address the next envelope. Then as soon as the poor waif of a story comes back, an envelope is waiting to carry it into the world again.

Now that we more often submit via the internet, I use a parallel method. I keep an index card file of submissions  and also down three alternate possibilities. So when I get that inevitable rejection, I can submit again without any delaying tactics.

The reality is that rejection lurks in every aspect of  life. How often have you been hit by an audible – or inaudible  –  “no way,” by a supposed friend, a CEO, your teenager (!), even the one who swore to love you forever but inexplicably has a heartless change of heart?

The only way to save our sanity is to refuse to see rejection as a Dead End. As the song goes, “keep hope alive.” And  believe that eventually a perceptive editor will say, “Yes!”


BOOKS: “Wdow’s Walk” – available through; “Turning Toward Tomorrow”-; “Ten Women of Valor” snd “Role  lPay”- and Amazon Kindle.