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Rejection that Motivates

In the New York Times tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 16,) my essay will appear on the grievous wound I suffered at age sixteen when I didn't get into "brainy-teen camp," formally known as North Carolina Governor's School. At age sixty-two, I'm still irked that I didn't get to go. My story is about how that has also inspired me — an invigorating way of dealing with rejection.  

Here's the link: "How Insults Spur Success."

And here are a couple of bits that got cut out: 

In short, the Governor’s School was Greenwich Village; it was the Left Bank of Paris in Hemingway’s time; it was what might now be called Hogwarts. It still looms like a mini-Manhattan — or Brooklyn? — in my mind.

Though I wasn’t invited to that year’s brainy-kid discussion of one of the school’s usual texts, Best American Short Stories, I did (and I strive to say this with proper modesty) have one my stories honored in that annual volume some years later.


The piece I first submitted to the Times — to the Preoccupations column which is about personal experiences of work life — was entirely my personal story.  The editor asked me to add examples from a few other people, which I did.  They were astoundingly easy to find.  Lots of people are still motivated to prove some naysayer wrong. dadash  )

If you have such a motivating insult, do share in the comments here.  

(And please forgive the jumpy fonts and type sizes.  My blog dashboard seems to have motivation all its own.)

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Categories: enhancing creativity

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  • October 16, 2011 at 5:38 am Reply

    Sheesh Peggy, what a great piece and the NYT, the holy grail.  You so rock!

    • October 16, 2011 at 8:34 am Reply

      Thanks, Beth. I remember seeing an ad for the Times in a NY subway that showed a picture of artsy types and it said The Times is the review they want the most. Which is true.

  • Julie Davis
    October 16, 2011 at 6:44 am Reply


    Isn't it strange how we dwell on our past failures, rather than our successes?  I suppose it's part of being human.
    I *did* attend Governor's School in 1969, and it made me feel stupid, ugly, and worthless.  I realized there were people out there who were much smarter, good-looking, and assertive than I was.  Ted Tally, a classmate, went on to write "Terra Nova," which won an Obie, and the screenplay for "Silence of the Lambs," and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay.  He even has an entry in Wikipedia.
    But back to Governor's School.  It took me a while, but within the last two weeks of GS, I found several other geeky, non-beautiful people to hang out with.  I read a lot of interesting books.  I saw some great theater, courtesy of the drama program.  It left me more prepared for college.
    So what I'm saying is, Governor's School isn't all it's cracked up to be.  In my eyes, you're successful and I'm not.  But I'm try to focus more on my successes and struggle to be more lion-hearted.

    • October 16, 2011 at 8:38 am Reply

      That writer you mention may also feel like he’s running a bit behind, Julie. I certainly do. Once I taught a writing class at a spa and a woman who’d had a book on Oprah attended and she asked: “When do you know you’re a real writer?” That sure reminded me that external milestones don’t do psychological magic.

  • […] a New York Times Business Section essay, writer Peggy Payne shares how Rejections can be Inspirational! Share this: This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  • Kenju
    March 8, 2018 at 4:32 am Reply

    I can’t read this; it’s too dark and not enough contrast.

    • Peggy Payne
      March 8, 2018 at 1:34 pm Reply

      Oh, sorry, Kenju. This came out years ago and I don’t know why it has reappeared now. What it says is that not getting into Governor’s School at 16 has motivated me my whole life. Every time I hit some career milestone or piece of good news, I say to myself, well, this should make up for not going to Gov. School.

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