“The thing that hurts the most is when we reject ourselves.”
Dr. Rob Gilbert
On his inspiring free daily Success Hotline (973.743.4690), my friend and mentor Rob Gilbert touched on a theme he returns to often: The worst rejections we face don’t come to us from the outside world. Instead, they are the moments in which we reject ourselves.
Just one example: Students reject themselves when they don’t apply to the colleges they really want to attend because they feel they won’t be accepted. The result: They never have a chance because they never give themselves a chance. Sadly, this happens all the time. We can all think of instances in which we rejected ourselves before anyone else did and sacrificed the chance to go after something we really wanted. I know I’ve done it.
How can we eject rejection? One of the keys to not rejecting yourself is to recognize when you’re robbing yourself of an opportunity to achieve what you want. This led me to ponder some of the ways we reject ourselves in our writing lives. I came up with six:
We reject ourselves when we have a good idea and we don’t run with it. A novel, a short story, a poem, a film — each of these start with an idea: a seed, a germ. When we’re open to the world and attentive, ideas come to us. Some of them are worth pursuing. And yet so often, we let them slip away because we don’t jot them down, play with them, see where they lead us.
We reject ourselves when we don’t complete promising projects. I have more than one project that I put energy into and then dropped before completing it. When we lose interest in something for whatever reason, it can be hard to rekindle it. But it may be worthwhile to take a look at these unfinished projects periodically and see if the seeds of inspiration are still there.
We reject ourselves when we actually complete projects but then let them languish. Many of us write because we have something to say that we want to share — we’re want our words to fly farther than a file folder in our desk or on our computer. And yet, we falter when it comes to getting our words out into the world. Even the smallest step — finding a list of literary journals or reading a piece at an open-mike evening at a local library or coffee shop can be a start.
We reject ourselves when we aren’t willing to revise our work to make it stronger. Revision is tough. It’s easy to intellectually embrace that “writing is rewriting” — actually doing it is another story. We all fantasize about how great a piece could be if we only had the time to work on it. But how often do we to actually commit to the “butt in the chair” discipline needed to push our work to the next level?
We reject ourselves when we don’t use helpful feedback productively. One of the most valuable tools in our writing kit bag is helpful feedback. My friend and mentor Coach Tully calls it “the breakfast of champions.” When we don’t integrate useful feedback into our work we lose a fruitful opportunity to make it stronger.
We reject ourselves when we let others’ rejection define and discourage us. The rejection stories of wildly successful writers like J.K. Rowling are legion. Surf the web and you’ll find plenty of them. They serve a useful purpose in reminding us that other writers overcame external rejection and we can too. If we can sustain a belief in our work no matter what comes our way, we can weather these storms.
Do any of these strike a chord with you? If so, then it may be worth coming up with an “ejection strategy” to keep yourself on track. Something to think about as we all write on.