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Thursday, October 20, 2005

It's hard not to take it personally

Outside of taking your clothes off in public, writing is one of the most revealing things a person can do. Every time I write, I feel like I've exposed an extremely private part of myself. It doesn't matter what I’m writing about. Because I sat back and thought about how to phrase something, the end product is very personal.

So when someone criticizes my work, doesn't return my calls, or never responds to my freelance proposals, it feels as if I've been rejected as a person, not just as a writer. Bethany at Mommy Writer has been working on getting her novel published. In her October 10 post entitled, "The post that had to be written," she wrote about the frustration that goes hand in hand with that arduous process. That frustration--sadly--is part of the territory. I know that I have felt it time and again, and I wanted to share my comment to her here:
Rejection, even when we know it's going to be out there coming out way, is never fun or easy to deal with. And writers are rejected in so many ways--it's too long, too short, need another point of view, wrong angle, etc., etc., etc. And I don't think it ever gets easier. Being a reporter for five years didn't make it any easier. I give freelance writing a try and hit one large speed bump with an editor and I quit (although it was temporary). It just felt so defeating. It's hard to not take this kind of stuff personal, well, because writing is personal. We come up with ideas and then pick words and sentences to string it all together. So fact or fiction, it is personal. Therefore, if someone doesn't like our writing, then it's hard not to interpret as they don't like me or I'm not good enough. And I agree that you should keep writing about the rejection too.. Possibly because it's therapeutic... and also because…we can all relate.
I try to remember that even the best Major League players strike out seven out of 10 times at the plate. That said, it's strange how a little encouragement in the form of steady work can boost my spirits, crack open that tough shell that I attempt to build around myself, and help me forget about previous rejection. My most recent encouragement came in the form of a paycheck. My first financial reward from the new gig arrived two days ago. I drove immediately to the bank, deposited the check, and dipped the stub in gold.

I have been so at ease. I'm not stressed out. I'm exercising. I'm not I think I'm even sleeping better at night. I’m not stressing about my other freelance projects--or lack there of. Perhaps it has something to do with the regularity of the whole thing. It's a real job. It's regular work. It's something to point my family to so that they know what the heck I'm doing with my journalism degree. Okay, so it's not hard-core journalism. But I'm writing and I'm very proud of it.

When I was trying to drum up more freelance writing, there was something very unsettling about temporary nature of every project. I know that's the deal with freelancing, but even when I had scored a writing job, I knew that the cycle would soon start all over again. The research. The pitching. The writing that goes no where. The rejection. And so for now, I'm basking in the warm glow of predictability. If/when it ends, I'll have plenty of time to stress out.


  1. I agree with you. Criticism--even the constructive kind--is hard to take. Rejection is never easy, no matter your age or stature.

    The predictability of a nine-to-five job has always held more appeal for me than the unpredictability of a freelance writing career, or of any career that didn't involve a boss, an elevator, and a steady paycheck. At least, this was certainly true when I was in my twenties and most of my thirties.

    As I age and take on new responsibilities with being a mom, I can feel my skin toughen. (OK, I can see it toughen, too, but that's another topic.) It's only now that I'm almost forty and have two kids that I'm ready to announce to the world that I'm a writer. Hopefully my newly-toughened skin can take the criticisms to come.

  2. Congratulations on letting go of some of the angst and stress! I love your new joint venture.

  3. I admire your resilience. Keep on truckin' :)

  4. Anonymous2:42 PM

    It IS hard. I kind of enjoy the challenge of getting through, but I do NOT enjoy the rejections. Every one kind of brings me down--I'll be cooking dinner, or whatever, and I'll think "why am I feeling a little cranky?" and then I'll remember. The email. The rejection. Again.

    Congrats on the regular gig; that must feel good!