I was browsing through WordPress’s Reader when I stumbled upon a post that made me think.
In that post, the writer said he/she had been writing for 30 years, but had yet to take the leap and show her work to anyone. Near the end of the post the writer wondered how do writers manage to put our work out in the open, where the rest of the world can see it.
Speaking for myself here, it wasn’t too long ago when I had the same question in my head. The same question and of course the same fear. How would I ever show my work to complete strangers? Even worse, how would I ever show my work to those I knew personally? What if they didn’t like it? What if they laughed at me? Even if they didn’t laugh, how would I ever face them again, knowing that they didn’t like my work or that they merely said they liked it in order not to hurt my feelings?
So what’s the driving force that helps a writer to overcome similar fears? I think the answer to this comes down to a lot of factors.
First, and always speaking for myself, one has to take into account the role of vanity. Vanity for doing something not many others do. Vanity for potentially succeeding into something not many people do. Vanity, because if we do succeed, then our names will be known and fans will flock to us. Yeah, I know that’s almost never the case for writers, but before reality strikes, while we’re still wet behind the ears, such thoughts are too familiar. C’mon, admit it, fellow writers. I don’t know if the word indulge is the right one, but we do like the idea. We like the idea of talking to someone and telling them that we’re writers, so we can hear, “really?! A writer?! Wow!” It’s like writers are a bunch of mythical creatures that populate local folk tales and all of the sudden, boom! One stands right before people’s eyes. Everyone knows writers exist… somewhere, but people don’t often encounter them. I think we like that feeling. It plays well with vanity, don’t you think? So that’s one way to do things.
Then there’s this mindset: what’s the worst thing that can happen if I get rejected? I think this is a healthy way of seeing things, because once we understand this, once we accept this as reality, then we know that the worst thing to happen will be to receive a form rejection letter. I think the world will keep on existing, the Earth will keep on spinning, and people’s everyday lives will carry on regardless of the rejection. Rejection letters carry a weight, but they’re not that powerful to mess with someone’s life. So, basically, we just take the plunge. It’s a leap of faith. And we have faith to ourselves. It may sound that there’s something missing, some secret I haven’t told you, but the truth is we just do it. That’s another way.
Then there are those who firmly believe that only good things can come from rejections: we can improve (very important) and we can develop a tougher skin for such things (equally important). All one has to do, is send their work for the first time. You’ll probably say, “easier said than done.” You’re right. But if you take for granted that when you first start out you’ll get rejected, if get into that mindset (I know it comes natural to me since I’m a pessimist), then sending a query to a magazine or an agent or a publisher simply becomes a formality like any other we go through in our daily lives. Have you never had to ask for something in your workplace only to get rejected? When you hear or read the word NO, don’t you carry on with your task at hand, your daily lives? Does it diminish you, as a person, in any way? Most likely not. How’s querying for a story any different? If you had asked your supervisor/co-worker in a different way, if you had pushed your proposal differently, would that have helped? If yes, wouldn’t you try again? And again? Isn’t that the same thing for a writer? That’s a third way of
Keep in mind that it only takes one person to say yes to your work. Just one. One person to believe in you. It might as well be you. You’re a good start 😉
Lastly, the way I see it, for writers, only three things are certain in life: death, taxes, and rejection. Once we accept that, how much can a little rejection affect us? How much should it affect us? At the end of the day, if you want to avoid getting rejected, improve your craft. Make it stellar! The means are within your grasp, folks! There’s not much we can do about death and taxes, but we can certainly battle our fear for rejection. In fact, it may very well be the only one of the three that is not able to control us. Fear of rejection is not as strong as we often make it to be.