Monday, August 31, 2009

Writer's Math

#1 How many compliments does it take to erase the effects of negative comments and rejections?

"You're a gifted writer!" "I loved this story!" "What a fabulous idea!" "I wish I could write like you!" "Amazing job!" "It was fantastic! I couldn't put it down!" "Thank you! It made me feel so good!"

versus

"your manuscript does not fit our needs" "contains too many problems to be worth fixing" "rarely do we accept unsolicited manuscripts" "too unrealistic and hard to believe" "we receive thousands of manuscripts each year and select only a few brilliant ones; yours was not one of them...."


The life of a writer contains many praises (mainly from friends and family) and many rejections (usually from strangers who have an uncanny ability to devastate our fragile egos). Sometimes those rejections and criticisms can take their toll on us and we stop writing.

So what magical math formula is there? Two positives cancel out one negative? Five positives to one negative?

Unfortunately, there is NO magical math formula. So what are the options? Quit writing? Never submit anything again? You wouldn't be the first writer to follow that plan. You also wouldn't be the first writer to feel frustrated.

Writing and sharing it with the world is like living life standing up tall and straight in a shooting range-- it makes it so much easier to get hit! But it's also easier to see the world around you. And seeing the world and writing about it is what we writers do best-- it's what makes our hearts flourish.

So what can you do to help minimize the criticism and magnify the praise? Here are a few suggestions:

-make the rejections into a joke and laugh about them. Write your own rejection letter using humor and no "politely worded complaints."
-see how many rejections you can collect in a year. Put a sticker on a chart for each one and when you fill the chart, take yourself out for a treat.
-write the compliments you get (even if they are only from your mother) on large pieces of paper and hang them around your work area. Focus on the positives!
-share the criticisms and rejections with a trusted friend; feel the pain and then willfully choose to move on.
-read about the rejections of famous writers. You are definitely NOT alone in being rejected and criticized.

What else? What do you do when you are feeling too much rejection and too little praise?

2 comments:

Cathy Witbeck said...

Sarah, there is a chinese rejection letter that I've read that sounds more like praise. It is was so funny. It went something like this, Most honorable Sir,
We perused your MS.
with boundless delight. And
we hurry to swear by our ancestors
we have never read any other
that equals its mastery.
Were we to publish your work,
we could never presume again on
our public and name
to print books of a standard
not up to yours.
For we cannot imagine
that the next ten thousand years
will offer its ectype.
We must therefore refuse
your work that shines as it were in the sky
and beg you a thousand times
to pardon our fault
which impairs but our own offices.
I could use a rejection like that one.

Scott said...

One rejection from a respected or expert reader, such as an agent or editor, can undo countless compliments from family and friends, even family and friends who read a lot and know a good book, and don't just praise automatically.

Good advice on dealing with rejection!