Inspire Me! Help from ‘The Help’

Did you know that Kathryn Stockett’s bestselling book “The Help” was rejected 60 times before it was accepted? If you want an amazing, inspirational story about one woman who refused to give up, then read on my friend…

I love inspirational stories like this…courageous people who simply refuse to give up. I speak with many creative people who have wonderful, God-given desires and dreams. They want to create that next book, song, dance, film, painting, studio or business. Yet, for many, that dream begins to fade.

Your work gets rejected. You get discouraged. Frustrated. Hopeless. Feeling like what you’re creating really doesn’t matter. I say, “Stop! Don’t give up! Work hard…stop waiting…fulfill that dream…nothing is impossible for God!”

Let this essay written by Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, inspire you to greatness. God put that greatness in your blood. You just need to believe and just go do it!

If you ask my husband my best trait, he’ll smile and say, “She never gives up.” But if you ask him my worst trait, he’ll get a funny tic in his cheek, narrow his eyes and hiss, “She. Never. Gives. Up.”

It took me a year and a half to write my earliest version of The Help. I’d told most of my friends and family what I was working on. Why not? We are compelled to talk about our passions. When I’d polished my story, I announced it was done and mailed it to a literary agent.

Six weeks later, I received a rejection letter from the agent, stating, “Story did not sustain my interest.” I was thrilled! I called my friends and told them I’d gotten my first rejection! Right away, I went back to editing. I was sure I could make the story tenser, more riveting, better.

A few months later, I sent it to a few more agents. And received a few more rejections. Well, more like 15. I was a little less giddy this time, but I kept my chin up. “Maybe the next book will be the one,” a friend said. Next book? I wasn’t about to move on to the next one just because of a few stupid letters. I wanted to write this book.

A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”

That was a hard weekend. I spent it in pajamas, slothing around that racetrack of self-pity—you know the one, from sofa to chair to bed to refrigerator, starting over again on the sofa. But I couldn’t let go of The Help. Call it tenacity, call it resolve or call it what my husband calls it: stubbornness.

After rejection number 40, I started lying to my friends about what I did on the weekends. They were amazed by how many times a person could repaint her apartment. The truth was, I was embarrassed for my friends and family to know I was still working on the same story, the one nobody apparently wanted to read.

Sometimes I’d go to literary conferences, just to be around other writers trying to get published. I’d inevitably meet some successful writer who’d tell me, “Just keep at it. I received 14 rejections before I finally got an agent. Fourteen. How many have you gotten?”

By rejection number 45, I was truly neurotic. It was all I could think about—revising the book, making it better, getting an agent, getting it published. I insisted on rewriting the last chapter an hour before I was due at the hospital to give birth to my daughter. I would not go to the hospital until I’d typed The End. I was still poring over my research in my hospital room when the nurse looked at me like I wasn’t human and said in a New Jersey accent, “Put the book down, you nut job—you’re crowning.”

It got worse. I started lying to my husband. It was as if I were having an affair—with 10 black maids and a skinny white girl. After my daughter was born, I began sneaking off to hotels on the weekends to get in a few hours of writing. I’m off to the Poconos! Off on a girls’ weekend! I’d say. Meanwhile, I’d be at the Comfort Inn around the corner. It was an awful way to act, but—for God’s sake—I could not make myself give up.

In the end, I received 60 rejections forThe Help. But letter number 61 was the one that accepted me. After my five years of writing and three and a half years of rejection, an agent named Susan Ramer took pity on me. What if I had given up at 15? Or 40? Or even 60? Three weeks later, Susan sold The Help to Amy Einhorn Books.

The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.

And if your friends make fun of you for chasing your dream, remember—just lie.

Questions: What most inspires you about Kathryn Stockett? What dream are you pursuing today? How do you look to God to give you strength and perseverance? I’d love your feedback!

I found this article on Donna McBroom-Theirot’s website, My Life. One Story at a Time. It’s a great site filled with book reviews. Read Donna’s review of The Help here! The article was written by Kathryn Stockett. This essay appears in the anthology The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives, edited by Katie Couric and published by Random House in April.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Buky of Bukville

    Very inspiring, dont give up folks!

  • Joey O’Connor

    Thanks Buky! Not giving up is what it’s all about. I look forward to checking out your blog! Blessings to you.

  • Creativeoasiscoach

    This is a wonderful reminder to continue to pursue our creative dreams no matter what others may think of them. By following our unique, inner creative voice – we’re offering authentic creative expression in a world that truly needs it. Not only that, what a blessing to be able to experience the joy of expressing our creativity – even if no one else ever sees it! I try to help my creativity coaching clients remember that if we focus on the process rather than the product – that’s when we feel the most joy!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Jill, thank you for your insightful thoughts. You’re absolutely right…we have to keep pursuing and using our unique, inner creative voice no matter what anyone else says! I visited your website and it looks like you offer a wonderful variety of creative coaching tools. Best wishes to you in all your endeavors and thank you for sharing!

  • DianeMLandry

    That is an awesome article, Joey!  What a tribute to persistence!  Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Diane. I’m glad you enjoyed it! Best wishes on all your writing endeavors!

  • Brandon Elrod

    Thank you Joey! I am once again working on this manuscript, stationed here at Starbucks. I am revising the longest chapter in the book in order to get it streamlined, meaty, and cut out any waste of speech.

    Thanks for the encouraging words…I’m working to finish well on this project.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Hey Brandon, thanks for jumping in. Me too…I’m working on shaving several chapters that are over 20 pages long to a 16-17 page sweet-spot. I have been so encouraged and challenged the past couple days to work even harder on a novel I’m writing. Been motivated by publishing challenges…my goal is to write an even better book!

      Best to you and you’re in my prayers to finish well!

      • Daniel

        How many words are in the 16-17 page sweet spot. That would be helpful for me today!

        • Joey O’Connor

          Hi Daniel…sorry for the delay here. Depending on the font size and software, anywhere between 250-400 words per page.

          I use the word count tool in MS word when I need to know how many words per page. Hope that helps!

  • Alliebullock

    Wow, Joey, the Lord led me straight here after receiving a rejection on a short story I was pumped about!! Not even an honorable mention and now those rejecters have $15 of my money they doled out to some other writers! Saw The Help last week and it’s still reeling inside of me but this essay and your comments just lifted me sky high! Don’t think I ever cried over someone’s essay! This is just what this writer needed to hear at this very moment. Bless you.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Allie, I’m so glad you were encouraged. Wow, what a great post you wrote. Keep at it! Hang it there! I also faced some serious writing and publishing challenges this week after working on a project for nine months. It has motivated me to work even harder at the craft.  I’m going to write an even better story!

      I heard it said yesterday, “Don’t give up on your dreams. If you do, you may still exist, but you will cease to live.”

  • HanaChem

    I was inspired when I read this. I’m pursuing to be an engineer at the same time to be a good writer that anyone who’ll read my work would love it. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t belong in any of my wants, but then God is really good. He always reminds me of how I really wanted to reach my dreams by giving me sign like this. 

    • Joey O’Connor

       Hi Hana, yes we all need inspiration, don’t we? Just yesterday, I revisited a manuscript I haven’t worked on in awhile and I am inspired to get going on it again. I’ve committed to work on the outline for one hour today…small steps in the right direction.

      Thanks for your thoughts! Come again…


    I not only got rejected but the publisher lifted big portions of my book and gave to the artists I was proposing to interview. So I reeled in pain for a moment, retooled my book and turned it into courses with books and DVDS. 21 years later that same publisher approached me about selling my work. Now they are my biggest client, but not as a publisher, as a distributor. I’m the publisher of 55 books, 22 DVDS and 8 Home Study Courses with tons of awards and more than a million dollars in sales. All because I got a good “No” and didn’t take it to mean “No.” Never, never, never give up.

    • Joey O’Connor

       What a great story about overcoming rejection! You’re so right! A good “No” can spur us into action! We had 6 publishers reject our Create: Transforming Stories of Art, Life & Faith and now we’ve published an amazing book filled with art, video and incredible esssays…a far better product we could have ever hoped to have created than by a traditional publisher. Thanks for sharing your inspiring story and congrats to you for putting in the hard work!


         Thanks Joey. Instead of earning a dollar per book as they would have paid, we sell our course for $119.95 for the 150 page workbook and four DVDS. God had a better idea. Nowadays the eBook and the internet has leveled the playing field and creative people can print on demand and compete with the big boys. Congrats on your success. I love what you are doing. I have the same vision!


    Btw… this hit me on a day I was afraid to pick up the phone again. Thanks for the reminder to never give up.

    • Joey O’Connor

       My pleasure! Now go pick up that phone!


         I will call tomorrow and let you know. Thanks for the push. 😀

  • Montana Jane

    Hi Joey, I love combinating art, life and faith! I am a professional artist who paints landscapes, wildlife, birds, etc. but I also create worship art as I pray for people. Someone described it as me painting my prayers. It is more primitive/folk artish than my formal art, but it is powerful. Your blog about not giving up touched my heart today. I get discouraged sometimes because my landscape type art isn’t selling well and God reminds me that my discouragement comes because I am getting my eyes off of HIm and onto others. He provides. He blesses. And the most powerful work I do may be the one-on-one paintings I do as I pray for others. It’s not about my “job” as an artist, it’s about the ministry of worship art. Thanks for your inspiration!

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  • Daniel

    Great story here. I need to be reminded of this as I keep struggling forward with my non-profit. Keep the faith!

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks Daniel…in my reading this morning, I was reminded of the importance of “perseverance.” I think the wisdom God offers in James 1 is incredible…keep moving forward…one day…one step at a time.

  • MartyandPam Cutrone

    Thank you Joey for this great encouragement! I just used the word “delusional” when speaking to my husband regarding the hopes for my written story. I don’t know what plans God has for it…but this helped me believe He does have a plan! I so don’t want to stop believing now! Blessings, Pam