Replace Your Nail with a Spike: And Hammer Home The Right Attitude About Rejection by Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D

“The nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.” —Stephen King

When you started writing, did you think it would answer all your prayers and you’d live happily ever after? Did you dream your mystery would appear on bookstore shelves beside Lee Child or Louise Penny? That it would hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list and garner the major literary awards? That Steven Spielberg would beat down your door to sign the screenplay?

Many mystery writers do.

If you’re like most new authors, though, you discover that nightmares often accompany the dreams. An agent’s dismissal, publisher rejection, blistering reviews, crickets at bookstore signings, zero awards, or agonizing writer’s block can besiege you. Chances are, you have trouble locating your book on the shelves at Barnes and Noble, and you might make a little money but not enough to pay off the mortgage.  

After meteoric challenges, are you still in the writing game, waiting for Hollywood to call? If you’re a “spike” writer, you are because you reject the idea of rejection. Not writing isn’t an option. You don’t allow defeat to take you down. You use rejection and disappointment to fuel your fierce determination and persevere through literary storms—albeit bruised, bereft, and beleaguered.

Once you substitute a spike for a nail, you have a different way of looking at rejection. You consider it an honor to be in such good company—members of an elite club of great authors. Every successful writer from Stephen King to the Beatles to J.K. Rowling—whose Harry Potter series was rejected by twelve publishing houses—has travelled the same road as each of us. Thriller writer Steve Berry had 85 rejections over twelve years of trying before hitting it big. Janet Evanovich received ten years of rejection letters that she stored in a box. When it was finally full, she took it to the curb and set it on fire. James Lee Burke saved all of his rejection slips because he planned to autograph them and auction them off. And author Judith Guest said, “Some of our worst rejections can help make us better writers.”

Only the diligent survive the writing business. A-list writers work long and hard and face tumultuous ups-and-downs before the taste of success. Stephen King and Patricia Cornwell are “spike” writers. So are Steve Berry, Barbara Neely, and Mary Higgins Clark. If you’re a “spike” writer, no one can reject you without your consent. Not your writing talents, self-confidence, and especially your persistence. Nothing. Nada.

 When the rejection letters arrive—and they will—you don’t have to let defeat turn you into a wreck. “Spike” writers are creators of their writing, not victims of it. Instead of letting rejection slips prescribe your course of action, you can prescribe theirs: haul them to the scrap heap, make a scrapbook, wallpaper a room, put them on your website, read them at book signings, use them for wrapping paper, or set them on fire. Jilted mystery writers can even put their rejection letters behind them (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) thanks to a website ( that lets authors print their rejection letters onto rolls of customized toilet paper.

You get where I’m going? Are you feeling empowered yet?

 A “spike” writer is a force to be reckoned with. Rejection is not final, nor fatal. It strengthens you, makes you more resilient, gives you the stamina to rise up and scale writing obstacles. You can face rejection with fierce determination and substitute your nail with a spike, never give up, and keep on writing those mysteries.

Bryan E. Robinson is a licensed psychotherapist and author of two novels and 40 nonfiction books. He applies his experiences to crafting insightful nonfiction self-help books and psychological thrillers. His multi-award winning southern noir murder mystery, Limestone Gumption, won the New Apple Book Medal for best psychological suspense, the Silver IPPY Award for outstanding mystery of the year, the Bronze Foreword Review INDIEFAB Book Award for best mystery, and the 2015 USA Regional Excellence Book Award for best fiction in the Southeast.

His most recent release is Daily Writing Resilience: 365 Meditations and Inspirations for Writers (Llewellyn Worldwide, 2018). He has written for Psychology TodayFirst for Women, and Natural Health, and his blogs and columns for writers appear in Southern Writer’s Magazine. He is a consulting editor for The Big Thrill, the online magazine for International Thriller Writers. His long-selling book, Chained to the Desk, is now in its 3rd Edition (New York University Press, 1998, 2007, 2014). His books have been translated into thirteen languages, and he has appeared on every major television network: 20/20Good Morning America, ABC’s World News TonightNBC Nightly News, NBC Universal, The CBS Early Show, CNBC’s The Big Idea. He hosted the PBS documentary, Overdoing It: How to Slow Down and Take Care of Yourself.