"A boo is a lot louder than a cheer. If you have 10 people cheering and one person booing, all you hear is the booing." - Lance Armstrong
Like cyclists, writers log long, solitary hours practicing and improving their craft. When we do connect with the outside world--be it through editors we query, publications we submit to, or readers we choose to share our work with--we open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection.
Here's how to protect your belief in yourself and your writing when you encounter criticism:
1. Put it into context. Remember Armstrong's insight: a boo stands out, especially when you're feeling twinges of self-doubt.
2. Build a belief file. It's important to record your wins. If you aren't doing so already, create a "Belief Binder." Include items that reinforce your belief in yourself and your work, such as:
- a list of career milestones (awards, publications, reviews)
- a record of your writing income
- copies of acceptance letters
- copies of clips
- positive comments from reviewers, readers, editors and any others who value your writing
I also recommend that you sit down and write yourself a list of "25 Reasons I Believe In What I Do," and include it in your binder. Have fun with your list, and add to it and review it often--especially when you find yourself beginning to believe in that single, shrill "boo" in the crowd.
3. Join a coaching group for writers. Accelerate your recovery when rejection hits by discussing your experiences in a life-coach-facilitated coaching group. Besides helping you recover faster, a coaching group for writers also helps you to:
- create deadlines for yourself
- learn tools and strategies to deal with obstacles and setbacks
- network with writers across the country
- support your peers' wins and progress
- access the collective wisdom and experience of the group
4. Remember that setbacks happen. Lance Armstrong came in 12th in the 1996 Olympic Games. President Obama lost his 2000 bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jack Kerouac, Sylvia Plath and George Orwell each wrote books that were subsequently rejected by Knopf.
You didn't experience rejection because you "failed." You experienced rejection because you tried, and isn't trying itself a kind of "win"? Think of the many, many people out there who don't take chances, and who never open themselves up to criticism or (gasp!) outright failure.
If you follow the steps I've outlined above, you can minimize the impact of criticism or rejection when it comes. Don't forget to draw on your support network. And whatever you do, don't stop writing.