Writers and Rejection (and How to Not Give a Damn What Anyone Else Thinks)

Pink ElephantBeing a self-published author means that you get access to a host of services that aren’t available to you if you go the traditional route. Like checking your daily sales reports on Amazon. As a self-published author you can check in whenever you want to see how many books you sold that day. Consequently, some days are awesome. You sold a lot of books! And other days you feel disappointed or confused or just like plain crap. Your sales took a dive, or worse, you sold none at all.

In short, you get a free ticket for the approval vs. rejection rollercoaster and you can ride it as many times as you want. Sometimes the ride leaves you feeling exhilarated and sometimes you just feel sick and dizzy and question why you ever thought getting on the ride was a good idea at all.

We all stumble upon different opportunities in life to ride this rollercoaster, but the decision to follow a calling as a writer affords us a significantly greater than average chance. For instance, if you choose to take a job as an accountant within a company, you’ll probably get on the approval vs. rejection rollercoaster during the interview process and as you go through your first few days on the job. After that, your duties and routine will be relatively predictable. You’ll have a solid idea of what’s expected of you and what you can expect from the ordinary day-to-day.

Being a writer is not at all like this.

As writers, we are constantly presenting some part of ourselves to the public to be judged. Here is my novel: Is it good enough? Do you like it? Can it be better? Here is my query letter, my synopsis, and my pitch: See my questions above. Oh, and my website—and my Amazon profile—the headshot I use on social media—and um, let’s see…oh, here are my previous publications, awards I’ve won, reviews I’ve garnered…and…and…and.

Now, I am poking fun at this a little, but just a little. Because make no mistake, this kind of stuff is very serious business for us writers. We want our books and our professional persona to be the best it can possibly be because this translates not only into (hopefully) real dollars in our pockets but also the much-needed inspiration and enthusiasm we need to continue to do the work we know we were sent here to do.

However, this tension around “Is it good enough?” much of the time turns into a relentless nagging worry of, “Am I  good enough?” And once a writer falls down the Am-I-Good-Enough hole it can be extremely difficult to climb back out.

The thing is, if you are a human being, you will have approval issues. Guaranteed. There is no way around this. There is no person out there that has somehow magically conquered this unpleasant little facet of human nature and really, truly, actually doesn’t ever  worry about what other people think. We all do it. So the first step is to cut yourself some slack. You’re just human. It comes with the territory.

The second step to getting off the rollercoaster (or climbing out of the hole, depending on what kind of day it is) is to bring self-awareness to the painful emotions you’re feeling. Yes, we all feel terrible when we get a bad review, we all feel like grubby little worms when we accidentally embarrass ourselves on social media, but each one of us has a different root cause that’s fueling the fear and the embarrassment. Almost every time, something from your past has been triggered. Some painful memory or incident in which you felt like you messed up, fell short, or didn’t make the grade. So now, when you see that one not-so-great review, all the old shame comes flooding back. You know it’s not the end of the world, but at the same time you feel  like it is. That’s a sure sign of old emotional pain that’s been triggered and is now surfacing in your present-day consciousness.

As uncomfortable as it is to look at this stuff in our psyche, it’s also a huge opportunity for learning and growth. It’s a very intense way of moving into self-acceptance quickly, and not letting yourself get hung up anymore on things that may have been haunting you for years. In fact, I think that’s one of the reasons writers choose to do the work that we do. There is nothing we are more interested in than our self and the selves of the other people that we share the planet with. That’s why we want to write stories about all of these selves, what they’re doing and why, and how they figure their way through various problems and crises. It’s because we’re fascinated by people growing, and our own self is no exception.

So once you’ve realized that you’re on the rollercoaster, and you’ve identified the root cause, you’re ready to move past it. You’re ready to let go of needing the approval of others to feel safe, and of making the approval of others the yardstick by which you measure how much you’re loved. You are ready to move into your own power, use your own unique gifts and abilities in the way that feels best to you, and exercise your own definition of freedom.

This is really what the writer’s journey is all about. And this is why it contains so many more approval vs. rejection challenges than most other conventional careers.

One of my favorite songs is Working for the Weekend  by Loverboy, because every time I hear it I think of this phenomenal Chris Farley skit. If you want an example of someone who was willing to laugh at himself and not give a damn about what anyone else thought, all in service to his great gift of humor, check out this video:

Working for the Weekend

If Chris Farley can do that on national television, you can do anything.

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