Tuesday, April 27, 2021

HOW TO DEAL WITH REJECTION: Guest Post by Clay Stafford

Clay Stafford:

How to Deal with Rejection

Let’s face it: we want everyone to like us. My wife is my first reader. She beats any editor I’ve known. She even told me once to throw a novel in the trashcan. We all need someone like her. I used to hand her something to read, and I’d turn into freaking Jell-O. I’d watch her. I’d look for the wide eyes of fear, the tear, the laugh, and I’d sneak glances at the page numbers to make sure all are taking place at the right place on the right page. We writers, in the face of readers (and not only our significant others), are reduced to emotionally dependent and disgusting slugs. Here are a few suggestions on how I’ve come to handle rejection. 

Not everyone will like you. 

Not everyone is going to like your work, poem, book, short story, or even your social media post. We can’t write for everyone. Not everyone will like your topic, your view, or even your writing style. When I was way younger, actor Mark Hamill, whom I greatly admired (and still do and who had quite a Star Wars audience at the time), publicly said that a production I was involved in was one of the worst things he ever saw. I was crushed by a hero. For decades that bothered me, yet as I grew older, it taught me much on many levels: Was he right? Was he qualified to evaluate me? Did his comments help me grow? Am I a better storyteller because of it? (The answer to all is “yes.”) It hurt, but I needed to hear it. 

Forget the work, though, for whatever reason, not everyone is going to like you. People are offended for the craziest reasons, some valid and most not. You don’t like everyone, so should it be any different when the subjective mirror is reversed? Maybe you’ve alienated a reader by a social media post. That would be your own fault. Was expressing your political view or your thoughts worth alienating someone who otherwise would be an ally or a customer? Only each writer can respectively determine that. If you have done that, let’s realize we are all evolving clunky cells. We won’t do that again. 

So how do you deal with criticism? 

So, what do you do when someone criticizes you because, if you publish enough, it is bound to happen. Evaluate the grand animadversion. Learn from the chiding if it is valid. At minimum, don’t do anything. Let it go. If it is valid, however, try this: be grateful someone took the time to review your work out of the other million that are published each year. Reach out and thank that person. Make a new friend. If the person appears not to like you as a person, treat them with kindness, let the karma meter grow with you, and say, “that’s okay.” Don’t try to make them like you and, for heaven’s sake, please do not do the opposite and insult them in public. These things will come back to haunt you. Ask yourself instead, why are you writing? People pleasing should not be part of the answer. People pleasing will never make you happy. By doing anything, fifty percent of the population already will not like you. Ask any politician. 

Instead of reacting emotionally, proactively take back your personal power. No matter if you’ve written a stinker or not, practice self-acceptance. If you’re bothered by someone’s review or words, look closely at why not having their endorsement bothers you. You can only control your own thoughts and actions, and you can only write at this moment as well as you can write. Tomorrow, with hope, you will be better. But today, you are you. 

Better yourself. 

Make a plan to be the best writer you can be. Write much. Read more. Hang out with those you can learn from, even critics who speak less-glowingly of your work. Build the audience of those who “get” you, cherish them, and remember them when someone else does not. Don’t let reviews or others lead you, you develop a physical and mental routine that fills you with excitement and then do all to the best of your ability, publish, and let the audience who “gets” you find you. Then write a better work the next go-around whether accolade or condemnation. 

Selectively caring and being proactive (rather than reactive) gives you power to create your best work. It allows you to be your true self and also be true to yourself. It gives your time value. Don’t try to fit into someone else’s vacuum; be you with all your quirkiness. Writers should not be in popularity contests. If you are, then you’re in the wrong business because there is so much that we can’t control. Let your happiness come from within in the form of writing three beautiful words together in a sentence (if we can ever achieve that truly) and let this be enough reward. Doing this, you use your short time wisely. It is more important that we as readers hear your voice than you changing your voice to second-guess what you may think someone might wish to hear. Sing your song. Your reader may surprise you. 

Why do you write? 

Why are you a writer? Is it to please? Let’s hope not. It is to grow. It is to understand. As you sit down to compose, examine your heart and make sure you are in the chair for the right reason. Keep writing, be genuine, and you will find your audience. I deeply care what my wife or any other editor says, but I’ve hopefully built my career to be about my work, not me, and from that, I can grow. Even praise can be good, but three beautiful words, fail as I may, are the only reason that I sit down to write. 


Clay Stafford (www.ClayStafford.com) is a writer and filmmaker, and founder of Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference (www.KillerNashville.com), which teaches you how to move beyond the fear of rejection and write the book you love

1 comment:

HonoluLou said...

"The speech of some is like wind in empty space, but blind man could see your word is good" (Charlie Chan, The Black Camel (1929), Chap 14 :-)