May I Have a Do-Over, Please?

By Natasha Sinel

The do-over in writing is a thing of beauty. Some people say that writing is revision. In writing, unlike in conversation or in real life, you can produce garbage and then go back and turn it into polished diamonds without anyone ever knowing how it started. Writing do-overs, when done right, are about opportunity and learning, and generally have nothing to do with regret.

But the do-over in life has the underlying odor of regret. Like this: is there anything in your life you wish you could do over?

I raise my hand. Yes, I wish I could get a do-over. Because I regret a decision that I made.

My freshman year in high school, I was on the JV lacrosse team. I wasn’t a great player, not by any means. My technique was pretty decent, but I was slow. I played the first home position, where I got to pass and shoot on the goal without having to run the field too much. I liked being part of the team, working together toward a common goal. Several of my friends were on the team. And that feeling of scoring a goal in an actual game, which happened once, I think, has never left me.

But sophomore year, there was a problem. The new freshman class had several very talented lacrosse players. And so, a few sophomores, including me, were cut from the team. I was devastated. And embarrassed. I was so embarrassed and indignant, in fact, that when I was offered a manager position that would allow me to practice with the team for the season but not play in games, I scoffed at it, too hurt by the rejection of “you’re not even good enough to have what you had last year.” So I declined.

One of my friends who’d also been cut from the JV team, however, accepted the manager position. She practiced with the team, and at game time, she didn’t play—she was on the sidelines, writing down stats, helping the coaches.

Junior year, she played, and senior year, she was a starting player on the Varsity team.

I wish I’d done that too. Not only because I loved lacrosse and I’d missed out on the team sport experience with my friends, but also because I’d missed out on an important life lesson: Rejection does not equal failure. Success is many things, including simply being given an opportunity to work harder and improve. Success is persistence and passion.

I may have learned the lesson in little bits along the way through my twenties and early thirties, but it wasn’t until I decided to enter the crazy world of writing for publication that it really hit. Writing for publication is a potpourri of passion, fear, ego, rejection. And also opportunities. One pass from an agent with a sentence about what a manuscript is lacking is an opportunity to improve. A writing workshop is an opportunity to meet a critique partner or group. Comments from family and friends—wow, you’ve gotten a lot of rejections, maybe you should “just self-publish”—are an opportunity to renew your passion for your goal. An email from an early reader that reading your manuscript made her feel understood and less alone is an opportunity to remind yourself to keep at it, to persist.

Rejection is not failure. Unless you give up. Because once you give up, the opportunity for do-overs disappears.

Natasha Sinel writes YA fiction from her home on a dirt road in Northern Westchester, NY. She drives her kids around all afternoon, but in her head, she's still in high school, and hopes that no one near her can read minds. Her first novel THE FIX, released from Sky Pony Press in September 2015.


  1. "Rejection is not failure. Unless you give up." Wise words, Natasha. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. This is a really great post. There's a lot we can learn from rejection, but I'd be lying if I said each one doesn't make me feel like a failure. Your post reminds me to keep going.

  3. Sometimes I wish I had some kind of time machine that would allow me to go back and do over certain things that I still think of with regret. Either that or I wish I had the ability to see into the future, so I'd know whether or not I was making the right decision.

  4. Great post, Natasha! That's the beauty of writing YA. We can bring our adult wisdom into the lives of our fictional teens.


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