The hardest part of being a writer is the rejection and self-doubt. I don’t feel I need to qualify this statement because it is undeniably true. Sure, finding the motivation and time to write is hard, but that’s a personal struggle. It is when the world asserts itself upon you, the writer, that there is real pain.
I recently received my very first rejections. This is both a big accomplishment and a soul-crushing realization all at the same time. It’s a big deal because to get rejected you must first put yourself out there. That’s a big step, one I don’t personally think I was ready to make but my workshop professor felt otherwise and required us all to submit at the end of the semester. To me, this rejection is a validation that I was right in the first place–that my work wasn’t ready yet. Of course, I was still hoping for the best.
But rejections on their own aren’t too horrible to deal with–they are just a part of the writing process. What was really challenging for me was a few days after receiving those rejections, I went through one of the most painful workshop critiques of my life. Maybe it was the first go-round with a new professor. Maybe it was because I submitted something a little different that my normal work. Maybe my exhaustion is starting to show. Whatever it was, the story was not well-received and it was a long and difficult class to sit through.
The combination of these two moments was not easy to deal with. I had to do some serious self-medicating with sodium-rich ramen noodles and glass after glass of red wine–you know, the usual grad school writer’s comfort food. But after a few days of distancing myself from the story, the rejections, and writing as a whole, I realized that I didn’t want to stop writing and I didn’t feel like a bad writer. I was going to keep reading and writing and keep putting myself out there.
That was when I realized just what it means to be a writer. It means putting aside self-doubt. It means being proud of those rejections. It means taking a harsh critique and knowing you won’t make those same mistakes ever again. It’s knowing that this is what you want to do and dammit, you’re going to do it, and do it the best you can.
So I will submit my next story to workshop and take whatever harsh words they may have for me. And no matter what they say, I will be proud of the fact that I came back and I put myself out there again (and again, and again…)
It’s important to realize that we are all our harshest critics. Even when others are hard on us and our work, it is to make us better–not break us down. If you worry that you aren’t good enough, keep writing. If you are afraid of what others will say, show it to them anyway. And if you doubt your ability to be a writer, then you’re probably one already.