For writers, especially new writers, it’s probably in the top two. Why? Because we have to face it head on. There’s no way to avoid it. It’s an integral part of what we do. I’m not talking about rejections from agents and/or publishers, although that’s going to happen if you are trying to break into the traditional publishing market.
Today, I’m talking about the rejections we get from readers.
Through our blood, sweat, and tears, we take an idea and craft it out of the void into something tangible, something dear to us. Then we release it to the world for anyone and everyone to read. The very nature of this effort produces rejections. Some people just don’t get it. Some people are mean spirited. Some people just don’t like what we write.
And there’s nothing we can do about it.
Writing and reading are very subjective. There is no way we can please everyone. Nor should we.
I’ll say it again. Nor should we.
The best writing polarizes people because it reveals truth or makes a statement. There will be those who get it, who love it, who are moved by it. At the same time there will be those who hate it, who revile it, who want to bury it. There are many reasons for these reactions, but they are inevitable.
So, how do we deal with this? How do we prepare ourselves to boldly release our work to the world and keep our heads held high despite the inevitable rejections we will receive?
First, accept that rejections and negative feedback will come. Period.
Second, and this is the hard part, take feedback professionally, not personally. Writing is intensely personal, as is reading.
Dealing with feedback successfully is not.
Feedback is an opportunity to identify areas for improvement as much as it is a confirmation of existing strengths. Look beyond the “I liked it” or “This is hog vomit” for the WHY. We love to hear people say, “That was awesome!” It’s an ego boost, but it’s just as useless as someone saying, “That was the worst piece of trash I’ve ever read.” Both responses are purely subjective. We can’t work with that. All we can do is smile and say, “Thanks for the feedback.”
It’s when they say WHY that we’ve hit pay dirt.
If someone dislikes a story because my craft was sub-standard, or my descriptions were bland and uninspiring, well maybe they’ve just identified a blind spot where I can improve. On the other hand, if someone says my action sequences were so powerful they couldn’t put the book down, or if a particular scene drove them to tears; wonderful – I’ve confirmed an existing strength I can leverage in the future.
The why of feedback may provide nuggets of truth.
Some people still just don’t get it, or they’re just mean-spirited. Take all feedback with a big grain of salt. Judge it on its merits and either learn from it or set it aside.
In the end, you’re the judge that really matters.
This is hard to do, but it’s as necessary a skill as learning to develop powerful characters, craft a valid story arc, or write good dialogue. If you don’t, you can be crushed by negative feedback.
And remember, you are writing because you love to write. You hope other people will enjoy your work, but their reactions do not define you. Keep that in mind, and it will help shield you from the negative criticism that might otherwise beat you down and intimidate you into giving up your writing.
How have you overcome the fear of rejection?