Friday, 23 April 2021

What You Didn't Understand About No!

Many writers tell me the scariest thing they have to do is submit their work to publishers, magazine editors and agents.

This is understandable.

You may have poured your heart and soul into a piece of writing. You may have spent a very long time working on it - so much so that it feels like a part of you is somehow exposed.

You fear criticism at best, ridicule at worst.

Placing your work in an envelope can bring on palpitations and an overwhelming sense of panic.

Writers ask me if this ever goes away.

The short answer is no.

It doesn't matter how long you've been writing, or how many times you submit material or show your work to others, there's always a nagging trepidation associated with the experience.

It's akin to first night nerves. Actors, not matter how accomplished, still feel it just before the curtain rises.

Musicians and singers still feel it, just before the song begins.

Even great speakers - gurus - feel it, as they walk out to face the audience.

It's natural, to be expected, indeed, welcomed.

Nervousness is good because it means you're concerned about your art. If you had no fear, no thought that you could ever do any wrong, you wouldn't care so much about your work.

If you had little self consciousness, you'd most likely stop writing and think, Ah well, that'll do. Who cares if they don't like it?

And I think that would come across in your writing.

Don't Fear Rejection

Rejection is not to be feared. Criticism is not to be feared - quite the contrary. If you've stimulated a reaction, even if it's bad, that's good. Because that's what you want.

The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.

The last thing you want is for your writing to be ignored.

But we can't all be fabulous, especially when we're starting out, and the people we send our MSS to know that. And sometimes it's impossible to know how our writing will work for others until we show it to them.

You need to develop an inner confidence - not so much in your writing style or your use of the right words - but in the ideas you're presenting which, after all, is usually what publishers are interested in and looking for.

Writing can almost always be improved by editing, re-shaping and reworking. And you should always strive to improve the way you express yourself.

But there comes a time when you need to let go - and receive feedback. There comes a time when the actor must play the role for the audience or the singer must sing her song. Just like any performer, writers must reveal their skill to the world.

And, gasp, be judged.

And this is where the source of fear is located - in the judgment of others. I suspect sometimes we'd rather not know if we're on the wrong track - or whether our belief in our own talent is misguided.

Rest Easy, Be Kind to Yourself

Let's take a look at the reality of showing your work to others.

1. There are millions of writers out there, you're just one.

2. Rejection is only very rarely personal.

3. If you don't get out there, someone else will.

4. The world needs writers, that's a fact.

5. You've got to be in it to win it.

Confidence in yourself, even if it's misplaced, is essential to success. Because without self confidence, you'll always hide your light - and your work - under a bushel, to coin a phrase from the Bible. (What is a bushel anyway? Do they sell them at K-Mart?)

Even though the jitters may persist - even for JK Rowling, who still receives her fair share of criticism - you have to overcome the fear - and submit your work anyway. It's the only way to get ahead.

It's also the only way to get over the initial nervousness - and discover for yourself the reality of being a 'real' writer.

There will always be hurdles and setbacks. Writers have more than their fair share of those. But it's the ones who keep coming back that take away the prizes.

Be Humble and Accept Criticism

As I said, sometimes the only way to experience the reality of being a writer is to deliberately put yourself out there - and step into the firing line.

You may be criticized - but actually not nearly as much as you'd expect. But even if you are, it's all good.

Criticism is feedback. And acting on criticism is helping you grow and learn as a writer. It's making you better and stronger. It's giving you the tools to keep coming back and proving, with each word, that you know what you're doing, have a right to do it, and will keep doing it until your vision of the world is recognized as valid and well expressed.

Don't Fear the Fear. Embrace it.

Don't fear rejection, it's to be expected, even welcomed.

Because each rejection means you're one step closer.

And with each step your confidence will grow.

Till next time,

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell's Writing Academy