Monday, December 21, 2009

Fear and Rejection Revisited

“The best that any of us can hope to do with our writing is to present to the reader a piece of the world, and to do so with honesty and clarity and gratitude.” -- Randall Silvis “Write to Connect With Readers.” [The Writer, January 2010]
I want to revisit Friday’s post about failure; mostly because the more I thought about what I wrote, the more I realized it wasn't one of my better ones.

I began my working career teaching in an elementary school. The students were active -- yes, some a bit too active -- and eager to learn and please. Later I moved to a middle/high school. The middle school students were, well, middle schoolers. The eagerness remained with some. Others were lost already. By high school, the willingness to try new things was not appreciated by many of the students, at least that was my experience. One of the worst things I did one year was to offer my high schoolers an option. One looked at me and said, “You’re supposed to tell us what to do.” Sad. I taught a college course, as an adjunct professor, and a few adult education courses. The students might as well have been trees. They were alive and breathing and willing to bend with the prevailing breeze; but unless I asked questions, or made them participate in class activities, the only voice heard was mine. Why? There were afraid to say something wrong. When someone did participate, I did my best to provide a positive spin to their comments; even if they were, ummm, wrong. For most, the easiest way to avoid negative feedback -- and possible humiliation -- was to remain silent.

This is where the fear comes in for writers. We hesitate submitting stories for critique for fear that the wonderful tale we worked on for weeks or months won’t be received well. We hesitate submitting a story for publication because we fear rejection. The level of fear is proportionate to our length of time as writers and our success level to date. Like the elementary school students, the novice writer has little fear about putting a story out for others to read. As the critiques come back with perceived negative comments, or as the rejections pile up after a story or novel is submitted, our willingness to submit, or even write, wanes.

Writing is hard work. Having our efforts rejected is even harder. Maybe we need to have the mentality of the long-distance runner. Most of the ones I know don’t have a goal to win the race. Instead, they set a time for themselves to meet or beat. They don’t always succeed, but they keep trying. That’s the attitude writers need. Set a goal and work toward it. If we don’t succeed the first time, set a new goal and try again -- and again, and again, and again. Develop a positive attitude toward rejection and shrug off fear and apprehension when they edge their way into our consciousnesses. Don't hesitate to begin a new story, or to write just for the fun of it. For if we don't push ourselves to continue, we may turn into trees.

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