You Know You’re a Writer When…: Dealing with Rejection – Part V

Hello, logophiles!

I hope you’ve had a fabulous week of writing, or, if you’ve been climbing Mount Revision like me, I hope you haven’t lost your mind! (I wish editing elves existed who could secretly visit my manuscript while I slept and give it a makeover. But alas, ‘tis only a fantasy fit for fiction!)

Today marks the fifth and final post of my Dealing with Rejection series. I’ve talked about receiving rejection from obvious sources, such as publishers and agents, to not so obvious ones, like friends, family, and even other writers. There’s just one more “rejector” left to discuss, an individual who is undoubtedly the worst offender of all: you.

Writing is hard (understatement of the year, I know). It’s isolating. It’s unglamorous. It’s tedious. It’s draining. It’s risky, and it requires no small amount of discipline and perseverance every. single. day.[1] For months, sometimes years, it’s just us and our work in progress (and inordinate amounts of coffee in between battles against Internet distractions). We sit alone in our own unique, art-making world, wrapped up in the nonstop cycle of typing and thinking, reading and researching, rethinking and revising, for untold hours before anyone ever reads our manuscript. There’s no good witch or fairy godmother to guide us or sing our praises, no colleague or manager to confirm whether what we’re writing is garbage or gold. We just go, as they say, with the flow.

In the previous posts, I told you that rejection from others, however painful it is, has strengthened my writing and solidified my identity as Writer. You know you’ve found your passion when you realize no amount of adversity can squelch it. It may be weakened temporarily, it may even appear to be dead, but always, like a Phoenix, it rises from the ashes.

Rejection from myself is a different story.

There are times when I will get inexplicably down on myself. There’s no logical reason for it. I haven’t received a scathing review or disheartening rejection letter. No one’s approached me and suggested I give up writing for a safer, more stable career path. I haven’t had a severe case of writer’s block or felt cripplingly uninspired. The culprit, most often, is comparison with other writers.

It was Theodore Roosevelt who said comparison is the thief joy, and I have found this to be 100% true in every area of my life, not just writing. I can be excelling – whether in my writing or my workouts with the women at our gym – without a worry in the world, but the second I start to dwell on someone else’s success, I begin to question myself, and the downward spiral begins.[2]

The questions then give way to doubt, just like they did in Genesis when the serpent said to Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”[3] Eventually, if we allow the doubts to linger long enough, they begin to transform into facts. Questions like, “I don’t know if I’ll ever be a traditionally published author” become “I’ll never be a traditionally published author.” “I wonder if I’ll ever sell 10,000 copies” becomes “You’ll be lucky if you ever sell half that many.” And on and on until I stare at my screen and feel I might as well spend my time digging a hole to China.

What pulls me out of these debilitating pits of self-pity is remembering two things:

First, there will always, always be women who are stronger than me, writers who are more skilled than me, what have you. Comparing myself to them and trying to figure out what it would take to reach their level is futile, not to mention unhealthy. The only person I should be comparing myself to is the woman I was yesterday.

Second, I’m a firm believer in the adage, “good things take time.” Using more biblical examples, it took Joseph over a decade to reach the level of influence he eventually had as governor of Egypt, and several of those years were spent (wrongfully) in prison. Abraham and Sarah waited 25 years for the arrival of their promised son, Isaac. Moses was in voluntary exile in Midian for 40 years before God called him back to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of bondage. Directly after his conversion to Christianity, the apostle Paul spent three years in Arabia before he began his ministry. Jesus Christ Himself was 30 when He began healing, saving, and setting free.

I could write ad nauseam about contemporary examples of patience, trust, and sticktoitiveness, but I think you get the picture. Overnight successes, though they can happen, are the exception, not the rule. And when they do occur, they often fizzle as fast as they formed! I’ve learned, through personal experience and observation, that when we try to rush our dreams, we often miss out on the priceless life lessons that end up shaping our character and preparing us for even greater blessings ahead. Making imprints and leaving legacies that last is a privilege that is earned over time, after we’ve made mountains of mistakes and been humbled to the core. Seeking shortcuts will only make us indolent, complacent, and unsatisfied by “success” when it comes, however we may define it.

Perseverance and Writers

Feeling doubts about your calling as a writer is inevitable, which makes it all the more vital to have a game plan for those days you find yourself being pessimistic and pining for grass that only appears to be greener.

For me, reflecting, as I did above, on historical figures who persevered through bleak, unsure circumstances and stayed true to themselves is my greatest weapon against self-rejection.

Second to that, remembering how blissfully happy the act of writing makes me nearly always refocuses my thoughts, reconnecting me to the simple joys of making art, whether two people or two-thousand ever see it.

Third, re-reading kind emails and uplifting texts (I’ve copied and pasted many to a note in my phone!) concerning my books never fails to encourage me. That people have found my writing inspirational, educational, or entertaining is enough to chase away the black rain cloud over my head and get me raring to go on my WIP.

What triggers self-rejection for you as a writer, and what are some of your tips for nipping it in the bud? Leave me a comment below or tweet me @dandersontyler. I’d love to hear them!

Diana Anderson-Tyler, writing blogger

 

[1] Even on days we’re not writing, we would be wise to at least be thinking about our story and/or reading books that keep our creative gears going.

[2] My husband and I own a CrossFit gym in San Antonio, where I am blessed to be surrounded by incredibly fit women who inspire me every day!

[3] Genesis 3:1

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