The writer’s life is difficult. Between slogging through endless drafts and receiving even more rejection letters, sometimes it can be tough to keep going strong. But a lot of the time, we make it harder for ourselves by the words we say to ourselves, whether on purpose or unintentionally.
Some people consciously sabotage themselves because they feel they don’t deserve to enjoy any part of the process if they’re getting rejected. Some are scared of being “too happy.” And some just feel uncomfortable praising themselves, so instead, they degrade themselves. It’s all unfortunate, but it’s very real.
One of the steps to recovery (or avoiding it altogether) is watching what you say to yourself. Steer clear of negative thoughts and focus on the positive. For instance, when you get a rejection letter, instead of “no one will ever want my work,” think “that agent said she wasn’t right for my manuscript, and I’m glad she did, because it saves me the heartache of an unhelpful or unenthusiastic agent.”
This may seem simple or silly to some, but my biggest hurdle was the distinction between “writer” and “author.” In my head, anyone can be a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. An author is a step up from that. Those are the serious writers–the ones who sacrifice personal time, who spend hours figuring out one scene because it has to be perfect, the ones whose dedication produces marketable products (whether or not they are actually being marketed is irrelevant). For a long time, I couldn’t bring myself to tell people I was an “author” because who was I to make that claim? Didn’t others have to grant that title to me? Even though I had written and edited a full novel and 15 short stories, I “wasn’t good enough.” And then I realized what I was doing–I was sabotaging myself in my head. It took me several months to get comfortable calling myself an “author,” but I did it.
Then, because I was apparently unhappy having conquered that hurdle, I tagged “aspiring” onto “author.” “There, that makes me sound more humble,” I said to myself. But I’m not an aspiring author. I already am an author. I write books. I edit books. I query them. I market them and myself. All of those are aspects of the job that is “author.” I don’t aspire to do any of those. I already do them. Another few months of consciously training myself, and finally the “aspiring” tag fell off.
(Disclaimer: the “writer” vs “author” and “aspiring” definitions are my own perception, and they are not how everyone views them. Trouble words will vary by person.)
Though speaking positive words in your life isn’t a guarantee things will turn around, it will help you make next steps. I became more confident in approaching agents. You may be more confident in asking for beta readers or in taking courses–anything to help you keep growing. And growing is how you start seeing results. It just starts with affirming yourself.