Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Survival Tip #1

As I'm working out the details of The Unpublished Writers' Guide to Survival, I'll be adding new things and seeing how they work.  I like the idea of having guest posters talk about aspects of the journey.  I like the idea of linking to pertinent posts around the web in my 'This Just In' feature.  But last night as I was trying to fall asleep, it occurred to me that something called a Guide to Survival ought to have tips.

So, here's Survival Tip #1*:

Don't Take It Personally

From your first rejection to your last bad review - with all the criticisms that fall in between - you have to remember not to take any of this personally.  And most of the time, the people who are rejecting and reviewing aren't trying to make it a personal thing.

I certainly know that rejections can feel personal.  I'm sure the one JB Lynn talked about in her guest post probably felt intensely personal.  I know the time one of my books made it to a full request only to be rejected - that rejection letter felt personal as hell.

But it wasn't.

In my case, when I went back months later and looked at that rejection, I could tell the agent in question was trying to help me be a better writer.  I don't know what JB's person was thinking, but it was probably some misguided way to prevent JB from getting disappointed.  (Ha, showed the agent, didn't she?)

The point is, taking criticism and rejection personally only hurts you.  Try to look at it objectively.  Take a step back and really look.  Was what the person said valid?  Is it something you can change?  Is it something you're even interested in changing?  If so, use it to make your work better.  If not, thank the person for their time (if only in your head) and move on.  Or plot your revenge and move on.  Whatever works for you.  But move on.  Fix the manuscript being criticized, use the knowledge to help you write the next book even better than the last - as long as you're moving forward.

Yeah, criticism stings.  But as long as you're not taking it personally, the sting fades.

What about you?  Was there ever a rejection or a critique you took too much to heart?  Dish in the comments (but no names - we're not making it personal here either).

* #1 because it's the first, not because it's the most important or the most crucial.  It was just the first one I thought of and it ties in so nicely with this week's guest post.  Sorry the order isn't more scientific.  ;o)

Speaking of guest posts, if you haven't commented yet and therefore entered to win a prize, please get thee hence and do so.  You have until next Monday's post goes up (I don't know when on Monday - so don't leave it until the last minute.)


  1. This is one of the most important lessons a writer can learn. Getting published is a business. Decisions are made based on a business plan--by the writer, the agent, the publisher...even the reader.

    The words we spill out onto the page are personal to us. That book is our baby in too many ways. So yes, rejection FEELS personal because we make it so. Publishing is like dating. Ha! Maybe I'll do a post on that one of these days.

    Bottom line, that's a great tip, B.E.

  2. Great tip, B.E. - and, yes, I have taken rejection and made it personal. I do not have a thick skin! But, I'm trying - and I've made the decision to keep pursuing - and if that means rejection, so be it. It's a business (as Silver alluded to), and I have to remember that.

  3. Thanks, Silver. It does feel that way because we let it. I sure hope publishing isn't too much like dating. I dated for 17 years before I found my husband. ;o)

    I'm so glad you made the decision to stick with it, Janet. Your books deserve to see publication.

  4. Great post, hun! I've never taken a rejection personally, but one of the first critiques I ever received was pretty harsh--but in a good way. I knew it wasn't personal at the time, but I needed a few days to take a breather. She is now one of my best writer friends and one of my critique partners.


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