Learn to Get Burned: Overcoming Your Fear of Rejection

If you are serious about this writing thing, you are going to have to show your writing to people. Stop being precious about it. Stop being scared of rejection. Every writer gets rejected. Deal with it.

Burn Baby Burn Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013

Burn Baby Burn
Photo Courtesy of Brenna Richardson © 2013

Here’s how:

Crawl

Rejection is toughest to take when you are getting started. You are probably already doubting your writing abilities anyway. Make it easy on yourself by showing your writing to family and friends who will love you in spite of the poor quality of your writing. Take their comments or suggestions with a grain of salt.

Walk

Next you need to find some non-friend fellow writers. This can be done fairly easily through twitter, by attending a writing class, or by going to a writing conference. You want to find people whose writing you enjoy, or who are clearly way better than you are. No sense in having a critique group full of people who don’t know what they’re doing.

Meet these people on a semi-regular basis. Establish upfront that you are going to tell each other the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. If their work sucks, tell them. If you like it, likewise. It’s a waste of time trying to make everyone feel good. Be polite, but honest. No one will improve if they’re getting lied to.

I personally believe there is wisdom in multiple counselors. If someone brings up a problem in your manuscript that you agree with, then go ahead and change it. If you aren’t sure if it’s really a problem, ask if other people agree with the analysis. If so, change it. If not, your call. If you firmly believe the other person is wrong, don’t change anything. This is your baby. You have to be self-aware enough that you can take criticism, but not so wishy washy that you take everyone’s comments as gospel. Be deliberate and discriminating at the same time.

Run

Once your manuscript is polished and ready to sing you need to start sending it to people who have the power to transform your story from a Microsoft Word Document into a real live book. It’s easy for your critique group to become a new safe, comfortable place. Don’t let it. Make a list of agents who represent similar works in your genre. Go to their websites, find out what their submission criteria are, follow them to the letter. Over and over.

Assume that you will get rejections. You will. Inevitably. Make space in your brain for that fact. Submit. Submit. Submit. Your default position is that your work will be rejected. This makes it easier to take.  Eventually, though, someone will see the value in your work. Which will make all the work worth it.

Fly

Once your work has gone through the fire of a thousand revisions, and two thousand rejections, has been accepted, and published, your skin will be tougher, and you will be a better writer.

Which means you’re ready to start your next book.

So, how do you deal with rejection? Let me know in the comments. Also, if you liked this post, go ahead and click the +FOLLOW button on the bottom right of your screen. Thanks!

About 

Joshua Rigsby is a freelance writer, tea drinker, and full-time father based in Los Angeles, California.

2 Comments

  1. Very interesting and timely.

    Truth be known, Josh, I’m not sure which stage I’m at from one week to the next! This week I’m flying. Last week I hated my work so much I wasn’t even crawling, lol. THAT is where the group becomes so important. That is, IF the members adhere to your advice and read/critique with an eye to pointing out the good AND the not-so-good. Honesty is the keyword.

    It was once said to me, actually to the class I was a member of, that critiquing helps not only the writer, but the one reviewing the work. That is where a thoughtful read is important. What is spectacular about this chapter? Not so spectacular? Etc. I have to think deeply about writing to answer those questions, and thus I can improve my writing by having done so.

    If I am afraid of constructive opinion, I shouldn’t really be writing.

    Reply
  2. Joshua Rigsby (Post author)

    Completely true Patrick. A group can help to buoy you up when you are having a bad week. My wife always knows how good the critiques were by how much better I feel about my writing when i get back. Even when the critiques are severe, they can be encouraging at the same time. Also true: The act of critiquing does have a profound affect on the way I see my own writing too.

    Reply

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