To Marilyn Van Derbur [Letter 573]

Item Reference Code: 101_13C_018_001

Date(s) of creation

May 30, 1973


Marilyn Van Derbur


Marilyn Van Derbur (1937– ) is a businesswoman and was Miss America of 1958. She had asked AR for biographical incidents that could be used in a project Van Derbur described as “working with high-school students in the classroom regarding motivation.”

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May 30, 1973

Miss Marilyn Van Derbur
195 South Dahlia Street
Denver, Colorado 80222

Dear Miss Van Derbur:

Please excuse my delay in answering your letter of February 1. The pressure of work made it impossible for me to do it sooner.

I am glad to answer the questions in your letter. I agree with you that it is very important to teach high school students “how much work is involved in accomplishment.”

The Fountainhead was rejected by twelve publishers. I do not know all their names, because the submissions were handled by a literary agent, but I can tell you the names I know: Macmillan (who had published my first novel, We the Living); Doubleday; Knopf; Simon & Schuster; Random House; Little, Brown. An editor of this last company told me that although their editorial board’s appraisal of the book was very favorable, it was their unanimous opinion that the book would not sell. Finally, Bobbs-Merrill published The Fountainhead; I learned later that one of their editors had said that it was a bad book which would sell, and another that it was a good book which would not sell.[*]

I remember reading in the literary columns that Pearl Buck’s first novel, The Good Earth, was rejected by twenty-one publishers.

It took me seven years to write The Fountainhead, and thirteen years to write Atlas Shrugged. There is no page in either book that I did not rewrite many times. On Atlas Shrugged, I used a ream of paper (500 pages) for every 100 pages of manuscript—i.e., it amounted, on the average, to my every page being rewritten five times.

I have never met a good writer who claimed that writing came easily or that he wrote “inspirationally”; all those I met, said that writing required excruciating effort (e.g., Sinclair Lewis).

I recommend to your attention a very interesting book on this subject: How to Think Creatively by Eliot D. Hutchinson, which is a summation of his interviews with hundreds of writers, artists and scientists. The author is a psychologist; his thesis is: “Inspiration comes only to those

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Miss Marilyn Van Derbur
May 30, 1973
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who deserve it.” (This book is available in paperback.)

As to articles written about me personally, most of them contain so many misrepresentations that I cannot recommend them. One of the few that I liked was by Rex Reed, in the New York Sunday News of February 25, 1973. I am not sure, however, that this article is relevant to your theme.

Wishing you success in your undertaking,



Ayn Rand



*As of August 2019, The Fountainhead had sold approximately eight million copies and been translated into at least thirty languages.