I like to be told the word NO. It wasn’t always like that, however.
When I first began sharing my work, the praise and support overrode any sort of criticism or indifference thrown my way. The negative was easily ignored, denied even. In my mind, it had no place among the healthy and positive vibes flowing from friends, family, and strangers. I was following a dream, doing what I wanted. Nothing – and no one – could stop the pull to create or the desire to publish. And if I was dismissed or denied, I proudly held my chin up and viewed it as a part of life. No big deal.
But over the years, the work load increased while the ‘atta girls’ all but disappeared. The silence resounded like a big fat YOU SUCK. A lack of response, a low rating, and a ho-hum review were the equivalent of being told “No, you cannot and should not do this anymore.” And I almost believed it. Almost. Yet much like a headstrong child, I stomped my foot, refused to listen, and plodded on with dogged determination.
I queried literary agents, submitted select works to companies and people I thought would raise my credibility as a writer, legitimize my career choice, and make me feel good. Again and again I was told NO. At my lowest point, I began to believe the rejection and general lack of interest in my stories were proof I did not belong to the oh-so-coveted club of authors. Perhaps I was simply fooling myself. I was not a true writer. I should move on. Write only as a hobby. Find a real job.
Yet even as the insidious doubt crept in, more powerful things took hold. The need to create. A compelling story. Persistent characters. My severe stubbornness and determination. They refused to go away, and I refused to deny them. And with each draft written and every book published, I came to understand: being told NO by others revealed the importance and beauty of saying YES to myself.
For me, perceived failure in this business is actually a private and very personal success. When I allow myself to stumble, then fall, and eventually rise back up, I learn what to do differently the next time. I work harder. And smarter. My process improves. I now realize the sense of being alone and forgotten have become my greatest source of creativity. They encourage me to forge ahead and continue to write stories that matter. From this, I can connect to others who have overcome struggle. A whole other world opens up. I become empowered.
At this stage in my career, I can honestly state that I no longer fear the word NO. I often expect it. In fact, I welcome it. Because to me, NO is simply another way of Life saying YES, everything will be okay, you just need to work toward the promise of something better.
Rejection is a core part of the business, and you’re exactly right that the best thing for writers to do is pick themselves up and try again. Even rejection offers the opportunity to learn and develop your craft.
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I agree, D.I. One step forward, two steps back is far better than standing still. 🙂