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.