Like it or not, writing and rejection go hand-in-hand. When you courageously write and share your work, you have the unfortunate possibility of being rejected. When people don’t like our writing, we tend to take it personally. Rejection can be crushing.
Most of us have an incredibly self-critical voice in our heads. We beat ourselves up, and in that vulnerable and beaten-down state, we’re at risk of quitting on ourselves.
How do you become more confident in marketing your writing?
If you want to build your confidence, the first person you have to convince is yourself. You have to know that you are competent, and when you know the truth about your competence, your confidence will grow.
You Are Not Alone
Right now, many writers are so discouraged they are considering quitting. Even bestselling authors find themselves wanting to quit at times.
Maybe you’ve received word from your editor that your latest manuscript isn’t working, and you need to do a complete rewrite. That can be a real confidence crusher, and it might cause you to believe that writing just isn’t for you.
Rejection or heavy criticism can feel like a gut punch, but it doesn’t mean you can’t write. It just means you have more work to do. Don’t allow that internal dialog to derail you.
Artists are always challenging themselves, which means they are always experiencing failure. As soon as you settle in and stop learning and exploring your craft, you’re no longer an artist.
When James L. Rubart’s first novel was rejected by his dream publisher, his wife Darci told him, “You have to decide right now whether you are a writer or not, no matter what anyone else says.”
It was a turning point for him because he learned to believe in himself as a writer regardless of whether he received a publishing contract. Once he decided he was a writer, the rejections became a little less painful.
What should I do if my manuscript is completely broken and I want to quit?
There’s a funny story about a brain surgeon and an author who go golfing. At the third tee, the brain surgeon says, “I’m going to take a six-week sabbatical to write a book!” And the author replied, “That’s unbelievable! I’m going to take a sabbatical this summer too and become a brain surgeon.”
People who have been writing emails, letters, or company newsletters think they can write, but the reality is that writing requires the same amount of study and practice as brain surgery.
If you get your manuscript back from your editor and it’s bleeding, take it as an invitation to learn more about writing the way a brain surgeon would learn his craft. As you improve, your confidence will grow, and you’ll be more willing to try new things.
Once you understand the craft, you’ll be free to confidently do what you couldn’t do before.
Find Honest Mentors
Editors can function as mentors, but so can first readers. Voracious readers who are willing to read and give feedback may be able to tell you whether your story is working or not. Look for readers who will be honest and kind.
We all start out as bad writers and need to be critiqued with kindness as we improve.
Read or Watch Biographies
If it’s worth having, it will be hard to get. You need to show yourself evidence that it often takes years to accomplish a dream, but you can do it.
Read biographies or watch documentaries that chronicle artists’ long path to success. Across the board, successful artists have a history of struggle and ongoing rejection. Let those stories remind you that everyone struggles.
Most people quit, but those who don’t eventually find there is space at the top.
Read Good Novels
You may also want to read epic fantasy. Neil Gaiman paraphrased G.K. Chesterton when he wrote, “Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”
Every protagonist overcomes a challenge. If you view yourself as the protagonist in your “hero’s journey” story, you can view a terrible failure as the end of Act Two, which means much better things are ahead for you in Act Three.
Write a Letter from Your Future Self
Many people write letters to their past selves about what they have accomplished.
Consider writing a letter from your future self about what is truly important. What would you say? The work you published may pale in comparison to the effort you gave and the kind of person you were along the way.
Futureme.org allows you to send yourself a letter in the future. You can write a letter today and have it delivered in one, three, or five years. Consider sending a reminder to yourself of what is ultimately important to you.
When you find your identity in your accomplishments, then your accomplishments rule who you are, and that is a twisted, backward way to live. On your deathbed, you won’t be talking about your accomplishments.
Don’t give up on your writing goals, but don’t push so hard that you burn up your relationships along the way.
Display Your Rejections
One bestselling author I know took a picture of her 133 rejection letters to remind herself of what she’d overcome. She has also encouraged others with that picture.
Competence Builds Confidence
There’s no magic way to become more confident. You can’t deceive yourself into more confidence. Unwavering confidence comes from knowing the truth about your competence. And competence only comes after many cycles of trying, failing, and trying again.
So don’t be afraid to try, and don’t be ashamed of your failures. Both lead to growth. Over time, if you don’t quit, you’ll grow into a competent, confident, and successful author.