I’m going to tell you a secret today.
Not everyone is going to like what you write.
In fact, some people are going to hate it. They are going to leave a one-star review, write a nasty summary, and leave you a little shattered on your keyboard.
Hopefully, this will not happen often.
Since you probably already knew that, it’s not much of a secret, but as a writer, it’s an important thing to remember anyway. Critiques in the writing world are harsh, reviewers sometimes forget that the person on the other side of the pen has a heart and soul to wound, and agents are often times too busy for anything other than a brusque ‘no’. Sometimes even our closest friends and family becomes the sharpest critics, and people who should have been the ones to hold you up are the ones shooting you down.
It gets hurtful.
But, writer, your success does not depend on everyone loving your books. Your success depends on your ability to last through the criticism—to be resilient.
“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability as opposed to resilience and hard work, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.”
~ Joshua Waitzkin
Resilience is one of the most important character traits for an author. You need it for those curt rejections, for the reviews that seem to come straight out of someone else’s bad day, and for the well-meaning comments from people in your life who will tell you to give up, because they’re concerned about you and don’t want you to fail as epically as you are obviously going to.
Writer, trust me in this. Now is the time to start working on your resilience, because if a ‘no’ is all it’s going to take to get you to turn from your path, you might as well pack up your typewriter right now. Your path will be paved with ‘no’s. Everyone will try to tell you ‘no’ . . . and I do mean everyone.
But all you need is one ‘yes’. So long as you are still around to greet it when it arrives.
Tips to Cultivate Resilience.
1. Don’t wallow in the negative. One hurtful comment shouldn’t linger for weeks. Take a deep breath, let it sting for that moment, and then move on. It’s only too easy to let things like that live on repeat in your brain, but it shouldn’t. Choosing your thoughts is a vital part of mental health, and choosing not to dwell only on the negative is definitely a vital part of writing. When it pops into your head again, replace it with something else. Guard your mind fiercely, because it is from this your stories flow.
2. Find the positive and learn from the negative. You’re not infallible. None of us are. Sometimes rejections, harsh reviews, or sharp comments have a grain of truth to them. If you want to grow as a writer, you need to learn to take criticism—and learn from it. Don’t dwell on nasty words, but don’t toss them aside as ‘irrelevant’ or ‘ignorant’ opinions. Take a few minutes to decide if there is truth in the negative and grow from it. Then set it aside and find a positive—whether from someone else or from yourself. I hate to tell you this, but most of your encouragement as a writer is going to come from yourself. It’s your job to keep those stories alive. No one else’s.
3. Don’t engage. I wish I could tell you this a thousand times. With a megaphone. The worst thing you can do for your career and yourself is to snap back at reviewers or cranky agents with a smart remark or, heaven forbid, a long dissertation about why they’re wrong and you’re right. It looks bad, especially online, it’s unprofessional, and it will never, never help. Also, it can damage your chances with someone else. So take a deep breath and let it go. Scream into your pillow if you need to, but do not respond.
4. Pick yourself up and keep walking. A writer is more than one negative review. They are more than one rejected pitch. They are more than the bad feedback. Keep going, dearest writer. You have so much more ahead of you than a single story. You will get rejected a thousand times, and you will have fans that write to tell you that you got them through their dark night of the soul. Keep writing, because it means something and it matters. One ‘no’ can’t stop you—not if you don’t let it.
Good luck, dearest writer! May your tea be hot and your dreams wild.