How Writers Damage Their Own Self-Esteem, and Don’t Even Know They’re Doing It

I read a lot of posts on rejection. In fact, I’ve written my fair share of posts on rejection. It’s something that every writer deals with sooner or later. You send your work out and—for whatever reason—the interest is just not there.

This is a normal part of the writing process and it shouldn’t hold any writer back from continuing to write and submit their work.

What does hold writers back is the harmful mentality of “pick-me-pick-me” that can arise during the submission process.

When you’re waiting around for someone to pick you, and no one picks you, it’s easy to feel like the last kid left who no one wants to pick for their team.

Waiting to “be picked” gives all your power away to whoever is doing the picking. It skews the balance in a detrimental way to you, the writer. Because when you’re trying to get someone to pick you, all of your focus is on being “good enough” and making sure that someone else likes and approves of you. It’s a constant quest for validation from an external source, and much of what’s in your best interest can get lost in that frantic search.

Of course, as writers we do have to rely on someone else showing interest in our writing. We do need editors, agents, publishers, and most importantly, fans, who want to get involved with our work.

But we don’t have to wait around like the sad kid in the corner, beating ourselves up because someone didn’t pick us.

The way to shift the “pick-me-pick-me” energy is to move your focus back onto yourself and your work. Instead of concentrating on how to be “enough” for someone else, think about what that someone else needs to be in order to be “enough” for you.

For instance:

If you’re looking for an agent:

What kind of agent do you want to work with?

If you’re looking for a small publisher:

What kind of relationship would it be in your highest interest to have?

If you want to build your audience:

What kind of fans do you genuinely want to connect with?

Writers are not helpless victims in this whole process. We can choose to be self-empowered and in control of who we bring into our lives and why, rather than taking whatever it is our low self-esteem thinks we can get.

Shifting the focus back to you, what serves your highest good, and what is most healthy and productive for your writing career, shifts you back into the energy of choice.

This will also change the way you view rejection, whenever it inevitably happens (because it happens to all of us). Instead of it being proof that your work isn’t good enough, it’s just a sign from the Universe that this avenue isn’t something that will serve your highest good.

Whoever you end up working with should be someone who is beautifully and uniquely the best fit for you.

So instead of pouring your energy into trying to get picked, direct your energy into figuring out what it is that someone else will need to do for you to pick them.

If you enjoyed this post, you might want to check out:

How to Take the Whine out of Your Memoir

Do You Know the One Thing to Do before Finding an Agent?

Why You Deserve a Better Audience

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  • Reply Christy Esmahan 4 September, 2014 at 10:49 am

    So inspirational and helpful! I just love your posts and this one, again, hits the spot. Thank you!

  • Reply Kathy Palm 4 September, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Great post! This is exactly it! Constantly waiting for someone to tell me they like me is torture. I guess I’ll just keep liking me. 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 4 September, 2014 at 1:33 pm

      I really like that Kathy. “I’ll keep liking me.” We need bumper stickers and t-shirts that say that!

  • Reply Catherine North 4 September, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Hi Lauren, absolutely awesome advice again – I love how you’ve shown here that we still have choice and control, even in a situation like querying agents, where it seems at first glance as if the other person holds all the power.

    I wonder if writing competitions especially are fuel for the ‘pick-me’ mentality (I say that as someone who’s obsessed with them 🙂

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 4 September, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      I think, yes, writing competitions can definitely be fuel for the “pick-me” mentality, but I also think they are so valuable for writers. Part of the process is also putting yourself out there, taking the risk, and constantly pushing those comfort zones. Writing contests definitely push all of those buttons!

  • Reply Jon Simmonds 5 September, 2014 at 3:15 am

    Also known as “F**k ’em, if they don’t like me, I’ll find someone who does!” 😀

    An uplifting and inspiring post as ever Lauren.

  • Reply Mandy 5 September, 2014 at 11:48 am

    You’re message is empowering for writers. And you’re right. Agents and publishers gain from the relationship as much, if not more, than writers do.

    This self-esteem issue may go even deeper.

    When we, as writers, focus on the type of agent or publisher we want, we instinctively know which skills we need to develop to land them. Too often we’re consuming online how-to articles by the slapdash bucketful. But this perspective shift you outline might help us better distinguish good information from bad and take more responsibility (of mastering the craft, for example) on ourselves. That makes knowing which advice to follow so much easier. And it returns control and confidence to the writer.

    This advice could be packaged as one of those “psychological hacks” that really transform a writers ability to reach their goals. It was that helpful.


    • Reply Lauren Sapala 5 September, 2014 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks so much Mandy! I’ve been discussing the energy of choice lately with a friend and the inspiration for this post was born out of those talks.

      • Reply Mandy 5 September, 2014 at 4:23 pm

        Well, I’d love to hear more about those talks, if this is the kind of powerful message that comes out of them. Thanks, again 🙂

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 6 September, 2014 at 3:01 am

    This is helpful in reversing some wasteful thinking. I went back to look at your post on being sure of your genre. This is a major stumbling block for me. Literary Consultants (as in the guys you pay to crit you manuscript) tell me, unfailingly, that I fall between, or lie on the fault line between, literary and genre, and usually suggest I rewrite in literary mode. The only agent who worked over an MS with me was clearly wanting to go in the other direction (short psychological thriller, perhaps). I struggle every time to specify a target audience, the readership I am aware of is defined by neither age or sex, nor by literary taste. Universal, light Lit, modern fiction? Easy-read literary? Beach, bed or desk reading? Any pointers greatly appreciated.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 8 September, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Genre is definitely a tough one, because the criteria can be subjective based on the reader. My best advice is to tailor your query/proposal to the particular agent and/or publisher you’re interested in and talk up the points of your book that hit on what they’re looking for. So. for instance, if the agent you’d like to open a conversation with is looking for edgy and suspenseful, emphasize those aspects of your story. Likewise, if the publisher wants literary, talk about those aspects of your narrative that might match up to their vision.

      This isn’t a guarantee that your manuscript will be the right fit for them (or that they will be the right fit for you), but it could be helpful in getting a foot in the door and gathering more information.

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