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How To Not Let Rejection Kill Your Confidence

By Donald E. W. Quist

“There can be no great courage where there is no confidence or assurance, and half the battle is in the conviction that we can do what we undertake,” Orison Swett Marden

So you rush out to the mailbox only to discover you’ve received your umpteenth rejection letter. Now then, rather than cursing the literary world for not recognizing your genius and swearing off writing forever, this is the part where you need to renew your resolve.

When pursuing a career in writing it is crucial to maintain one’s confidence. Besides talent, confidence is the single most important component of getting your work read. If you don’t believe in what you do then why should anyone else?

It seems so simple and cliché—Believe in yourself. However, it is something we too often forget when reading over an elegantly worded NO. I decided to get a professional opinion from Sarah Pekkanen, former features writer for the Baltimore Sun and author of The Opposite of Me—a novel soon to be released by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. As Pekkanen put it, “It’s incredibly important to maintain one’s confidence when trying to get published. So much of this is luck and timing and perseverance, not just talent.”

We shouldn’t allow ourselves to get discouraged by rejection and remember it comes with the territory. As Pekkanen reminded me, “Think of all the big-name writers who were turned down at first—including J.K Rowling and John Grisham. Rejection is part of the process; it’s not personal.”

In regards to the relationship between self-belief and procrastination, it is only natural a lack of confidence lead to a lack of productivity. Your query letter gets shot down after an agent asks to see a partial and suddenly you’re spinning excuses for not writing. You tell yourself you have to do more research before you continue with a particular passage, or you spend hours surfing the internet while a blank Microsoft Word document sits unmodified from its last save.

I know this cause I’ve been there. I’m currently finishing up a novel I once let sit untouched for over 6 months after I received my first batch of rejection letters for a short story I was working on. It’s easy to think that no one will ever be interested, but as my e-mail-pal, Young Adult Fiction writer Kathleen Jeffrie Johnson, helped me realize—for every reason I feared my writing wouldn’t find a home there is an example of an author overcoming a similar obstacle.

You’re scared you’re too young—S.E. Hinton was 16 when The Outsiders was published. You’re scared you’re too old—Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t hit his stride until 40 with One Hundred Years of Solitude, and at 82 years old shows no signs of stopping.

And neither should you. Keep at it. Keep writing and stay positive.

By now most of us have heard the name Susan Boyle breeze past the lips of friends and co-workers enamored by the operatic timbre of this pudgy, Scottish, church volunteer-turned-viral video phenomenon. (I mean seriously, the lady’s already got her own Wikipedia entry.) Though I hate to dedicate yet another blog entry to Boyle and risk being dated, she best embodies what it takes to succeed in any type of arts industry—the confidence to put oneself out there and the strength to withstand rejection. She stands as a model for all of us. If you enjoy doing what you love then do it and continue to seek out opportunities to show the world your talent.

About the Author: A freelancer for Media General, Inc., Donald E.W. Quist has written several special interest features for the Florence Morning News, the Hartsville Messenger and InnerViews Magazine. He is the recipient of the 2005 Coker College Write-On Award, and his creative work has appeared in Xcursions Magazine and ERGO magazine. Currently he is shopping for a home for his first novel—Young Folks.

He hopes to launch a website this summer. He invites you to follow him on Twitter: @DonaldEWQuist.

How To Turn Failure Into Amazing Writing Opportunities

By MJ Doyle

 

Imagine if writers automatically gave up after making one mistake, after receiving their first rejection, or even after having a full-on failure on their resume. Think about how many great novels, poems, short stories, and of course blogs, we would have missed out on.

 

All that classic literature that we have read, enjoyed, and grown up with came to us not as a first draft but as a symbol of the writer’s ability to see failure as a window to success.

 

Consider the following photograph:


 

 

 

I strongly disagree with what this picture symbolizes. Failure and success are not two different destinations in life. First of all, there are no real destinations in life as we are all constantly evolving on many levels. Secondly, it is only through rejection and failure that new doors of opportunities are opened to us.

 

There are 3 types of mistakes that I’d like to address:

 

  1. when we write something that doesn’t fit into our original outline, mold, or idea
  2. when we are being told by outside forces (i.e. an editor), or even by ourselves, that our writing is not “acceptable” as is (i.e. a rejection letter)
  3. when everything in our life seems to be going wrong and we just plain feel like a failure

Let’s start with the first one. Have you ever been writing, just letting your mind go wherever it desires, and come up with something completely unexpected? Something your internal editor may have flagged as a mistake had you not been allowing yourself to write freely?

 

As writers we have a tendency to over-think, overanalyze, and over-edit. Relax. Pay attention to the “mistakes” you make while writing and see if they are in fact new opportunities to expand, or perhaps even completely change, your original idea. Don’t be too quick with the delete button. Remember: We don’t write to get things right, we write to get things started, or progressing, to see where our minds take us. As uncomfortable as it may feel, let your gut be your guide.

 

The second type of mistake we writers often encounter is what we would consider a failure, or rejection. That is, either we don’t like what we’ve written, or someone to whom we are accountable doesn’t like it, or both (they are kind of one in the same, aren’t they?). In either case, the work seems to be dead in the water.

 

This is where opportunity knocks. This is how we strengthen our writing muscles. Without these failures and rejections, our writing would remain weak and drab. Imagine a body builder training for a competition and giving up after she realizes the weight is too heavy. She just can’t lift it. But what does she do? She lifts it as far as she can and then tries again. She keeps building the muscle until she can lift that weight.

 

And that’s what happens with writing. When you fail, it is a sign that something needs to be strengthened. Find out what it is and don’t give up. Failing builds muscle, because it enables us to become better at what we do.

 

Lastly, there may be failures or mistakes that you are facing in life right now. How can these possibly help your writing? Well, if everything in your life were footloose and fancy free, what would there be to write about? No one wants to read about an ordinary person who is sailing through life unscathed.

 

We write from within ourselves. This applies to fiction and non-fiction, including  blogging. If our lives were problem free, our proverbial pages would be blank. We’d have absolutely no material, no personal experiences from which to draw.

 

The best way to translate your personal failures into writing is to journal. Then, when it comes time to write something, you have some meaty material. Use the crappy things that happen to you as fodder for some amazing writing.

 

Now, close your eyes, and imagine yourself licking the stamp that will send your first (or next) query letter or proposal off to an editor. How will you react to the rejection that you will most likely face?

 

The next time you’re writing and something completely wrong flies onto the page, will you delete it right away, or will you consider that your mind is trying to tell you something?

 

And when your life feels like nothing is going right, will you retreat to the T.V. or fridge to dull the pain, or will you simply sit down and write?

 

About the Author: MJ Doyle is the author of “Beat Your Procrastination by Releasing Your Clutter.”  Her blog, S.O.S. Your Life, teaches others how to organize their way to personal development.