It seems pretty well accepted that a writer's world is, for the most part, or at least for the beginning, a shit storm of rejections.
To “put yourself out there”, to try and to learn means that we will have to face inevitable criticisms and refusals. But gosh darn that doesn’t mean we can’t try and aim for less rejections and certainly not push for them.
Uh oh...here we go.
My goal: By the end of 2019 I will have received a letter of rejection from a major publication company.
Wait, wait, wait...but rejection = bad! Acceptance = good!
I feel you. Why would anyone in their right mind aim for FAILURE (oooh I can feel my inner ego cringe at the word even).
Well, because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and practicing how to set goals that are actually useful.
“Becoming an author” or “Getting my book published” are inspiring, courageous and optimistic goals. But they’re about as useful as an anchor on a sinking ship. DITCH IT.
The most useful goals we can have, with any task, need to be:
When I was practicing as a Cognitive-Behavioural therapist, this was a theme that came up regularly. Beating anxiety or depression is like being told to climb the world's highest mountain but you have no tools, no clear paths, no idea where to even start. At least actual mountain climbers (the not-dead ones anyway) have those things!
And for every day that goes by that you haven’t achieved the goal of climbing the mountain, you can end up feeling like a failure. Which, in turn, just makes the mountain even bigger.
Aint it fun being a human sometimes?
We have to learn to be SMART about our goals and spend more time just putting one foot in front of the other. Not just because it feels easier and less daunting, but because it actually works.
This isn’t about denying your dream scenarios.
Hell yeh I want to get published one day and I will shakily, awkwardly, while hiding behind sassy humour, stand by that dream. But if I leave that open then every day that goes by I don’t achieve it I risk feeling like a failure and running out of patience.
My goal of rejection is attainable, time-specific and measurable. It also means I have to set some cool stepping-stone goals to achieve it.
To achieve my goal I will have had to:
-- Submit something I’m at least partly proud enough of to do so, which means…
-- Having my work edited and refined, which means…
-- Completing something worth editing, which means…
-- Committing time and effort to get that thing done, which means…
-- Having the perseverance to continue through the ebs and blocks, which means…
-- Having the courage and determination to gosh darn just start it in the first place.
And if those aren’t achievements and successes then I don’t know what is.
Now, if I start at the bottom of those and make that first task of Getting Started into a SMART goal (something like “Today I will spend 30 minutes getting some research of XYZ on paper”) now we’re rockin’.
I won’t have climbed a mountain, but at least I’ll be closer than I was yesterday.
Rejection is important.
We need to embrace it and see it not as failure but as a signpost to the next path. If I’m not rejected, great! If I am, that’s great too! Win-win people, head held high either way.
Yes, yes, I hear you. “Embrace rejection” is like the cheesy fridge magnet which also doubles up as a bottle opener to our liquid rejection shields.
Easier said than done much? Yes, it’s hard. Really fucking hard at times.
But the idea of not climbing that mountain at all and having it loom over me for the rest of my life scares me a great deal more than scaling that first ridge.