Don’t! Keep fighting! It’s amazing how much impact a few words can have. As an author (or any type of creative artist for that matter) you must have tough skin. Rejection and criticism hurt, but you have to take it with a grain of salt. In this article, I will share my thoughts on how to get through the darkest moments.
Has anyone ever told you that you won’t amount to anything? Have you ever been on the receiving end of words like useless, incompetent, or ignorant? Most of us have been at some point in time and it doesn’t feel good. Sometimes, the jab is intentional and other times it is unintended but does no less damage.
There is a fine line between honesty and cruelty. We want feedback and constructive criticism, but we don’t want to be berated. Some people just don’t understand the difference. You can’t let the words of others bring you down or influence you to give up on your dreams.
Recently, I was asked, “do you even edit your work?” Based on my relationship with the person who asked the question, I know that it wasn’t intended as a snide remark. Still, being asked a question like that stung worse than an angry wasp defending his nest. In another example, I had an editor say that he was going to retire after going through one of my manuscripts. The comment was made in jest, but that did little in easing the pain of the jolt. Jokes and lies are often an exaggeration of truth and it is the underlying truth in them that hurts.
I’ve talked before about the power of words, but most people still don’t understand the validity of my argument on the subject. Very few people are intentionally trying to subjugate or insult you, but the end result remains the same. Words of encouragement can inspire you while words of derogation can incite self-doubt. We should all keep that in mind as we associate with others.
I recall the impact of a high school teacher’s advice to my sister. She wanted to pursue a career in the medical industry and he told her that she had no chance and should pursue a less ambitious career. In her situation, his comment served as a challenge and she was determined to prove him wrong. After a long and rewarding career as a registered nurse, she did just that. Although his comments wound up inspiring her, they could have just as easily crushed her dreams.
With writing, reviews also have a significant impact. Many fellow authors have told me to never read my reviews and that’s probably good advice. Unfortunately, I can’t resist. When I receive a positive review, I feel energized and ready to write more. When a negative review is posted, I feel like I have failed.
On several occasions, I’ve considered giving up my passion for writing. Self-doubt is a powerful emotion and, when others contribute to it through their poor choice of words, it can become overwhelming. The easy way out is to just give up, but we can’t let that be an option.
So, what do you do when you receive twenty rejection notices in a row, when an editor tells you that your writing is atrocious, or when a friend unintentionally insults your abilities? You sweep it off of your shoulder like dust from a windy day and keep writing.
Focus on the good.
When that one positive review comes in, take it to heart that you at least provided entertainment for someone and have faith that they won’t be the only person to find value in your work.
Learn from the bad.
When someone makes a comment that hurts, even if in jest, look for the underlying truth and use it to your advantage. If they didn’t like your characters, then work harder on character development. If they had issues with believably, then try to make your books more realistic.
Be your own judge!
Opinions are just that – opinions. We all have one and they often differ. If you are happy with what you have written, then be proud of your work. Don’t let someone’s contrary opinion take that away.
Keep it in perspective.
I don’t care how successful they may seem or how well put together they may appear, we are all human and we all make mistakes along the way. Unless Jesus Himself is criticizing your work, take it with a grain of salt.
Set the example!
People often learn by example, so make sure that you are setting a good one. Learn how to be honest without being insulting or condescending. When learning how to give Airmen a performance review, I was told to make a sandwich – start with something good, add in the areas for improvement, and end with something positive. I believe that is a good formula for any interaction.
The bottom line is that you have control over your dreams and goals. Never let someone else take that away from you.
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