Have you ever wanted to quit writing? It’s a pretty normal thought. Common. But what matters most is that you build up resistance to that temptation. You must build resilience, to fight off that desire.
As yesterday’s post discussed, resilience is the writer’s refusal to quit. That’s the simple version. The more resilience you have as a writer, the less likely you are to give up when things like rejection, negative feedback and rough times try to bring you down.
Here are a few things you can do to build up resilience as a writer.
Understand rejection from the industry’s point of view
What stops far too many writers on their journeys to becoming successful (however you personally want to define that) is the steady flow of rejection that always comes before acceptance. I’ve gotten rejected in all the usual ways – the generic email; the ‘this was great, but we’re not able to accept submissions at this time’ line; and the worst of them all – complete silence. Each one gets to you differently, and for me, it’s different every time. Before you can get past that, you have to learn to live with it.
What you need to understand, right now, is this: when an editor or agent or whoever you’re submitting to rejects your work, they are rejecting only that one piece of writing. They are not saying you are a bad person. They are not saying you are a bad writer or that you’re never going to make a name for yourself. They’re not even necessarily saying they won’t ever publish anything you might write in the future. It’s just that, well, that one piece of writing you submitted does not fit their needs. In a way, they’re buying your work. If it isn’t what they’re looking for, they’re not going to buy. It’s really that simple. I’ve rejected submissions to a magazine before. Did I feel bad? Sure. But I can’t publish something that doesn’t belong in my magazine. It’s nothing personal. Don’t take it that way; just keep writing regardless.
Focus on the only opinion that actually matters: yours
I still don’t like it when people point out specific parts of my writing that need “fixing.” However, I’m also an editor; I understand that, sometimes, this is necessary. Some people are really good at pinpointing what makes your writing weak or illogical, in the most sincere meaning of both of those terms. Some people just don’t know how to express that they don’t like what you have to say, and end up criticizing your writing when they really mean to criticize what your writing implies.
So what if somebody else doesn’t like what you have to say? That’s a problem that runs much deeper than your words, and it’s on their end of the argument, not yours. Civil disagreement and unsolicited criticism are very different things. If someone wants to argue a point you’ve made – that’s a good sign. If they’re just out to tear your writing apart for no reason, they’re a jerkface and you don’t have to pay any attention to them. Any kind of negative feedback, whether you’ve asked for it or not, can sting. Rejection makes everybody feel gross. Be resilient. Don’t just be proud of what you’ve written: keep writing more things. The only way you’re going to get past it is to just keep going.
Just … don’t quit
There’s a big difference between scaling back on the amount of writing you’re doing and stopping altogether. Whenever I feel like I just want to stand up, walk away from my work and never come back (I can count on this happening pretty much once or twice every other week), I cut my workload for that day in half. If I originally planned to write 1,000 words of my novel, I dial that back to 500. If I initially planned to log work for two clients, I instead focus on just one. And so on.
Honestly, quitting is a bit extreme. If you want to build up your resilience, don’t go to that extreme. Yes, this whole writing thing gets frustrating, and other people have Epic Moments of Stupidity, and it’s not fun working when you’re tired or sad or just fed up. Go a little easier on yourself when you’re feeling down … but not too easy. If you stop completely, it’s only that much harder to start back up again.
Rejection, criticism, that urge you get to just throw everything out, run away and start a new life – it happens. To all of us. But you want to be a writer. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. You don’t have to give in. You CAN keep going.
What’s the first thing you do when you feel like giving up? What keeps you writing even when you don’t want to continue?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.