This Writer is Kicking Doubt to the Curb

Kicking Doubt to the CurbThe first day of February greeted me with a rejection. I’d been convinced the essay I submitted was the perfect match to the publication, but the editor found it “not right for us.” The bright side: the publication actually communicated their decision and the editor was encouraging, adding a note that she had enjoyed my story.

That rejection email turned out to be the highlight of February. It was a month filled with injuries, doctor appointments, cancelled appointments and missed networking events. It was also a month with lots of silence: unreturned emails from prospective—and even current—clients and unresponsive editors.

I’ve always known that the life of a writer can be rough, filled with rejections and struggles to get published. The life of a freelancer can also be rough, full of challenges to land new projects and the relentless need to continually market your skills. Usually, I can handle the negatives and buffer them with determination and the support of people in my life.

But not this last month. Despite family and friends encouraging me to rest and not worry, I’ve been preoccupied with fears of failure. I couldn’t seem to wrap my brain around the fact that things would change, even though I did need to give my body a break.

So welcome March and a new attitude. This is how I’m kicking doubt to the curb:

  • Multiple submissions. I’ve already identified two possible publications that would be a fit for my recently rejected essay. With a little editing, I’ll be submitting that piece of creative non-fiction in no time.
  • Putting myself out there. Even though I still have to stay off my feet for four more weeks (easier said than done), I’m going get myself in front of prospective clients. I’ll be punching up my letters of introduction and finding creative ways to introduce myself through social media.
  • Breathing. And by breathing, I mean putting words to paper. When I make a point to schedule writing time, it refuels me and reminds me why I love it. This goes for both creative non-fiction and the work I do for clients.
  • Asking for help. This is probably the hardest thing I’m doing to squelch doubt. I’ve always been independent (and proud of it). My ankle injuries have been a strong reminder that it’s okay to ask for assistance. The key is to remember that professionally, too. Writers and freelancers make for a very supportive community, ready with understanding and (if needed) advice.
  • Guest blogging. I have some terrific writers lined up for guest posts here. Their experiences and advice are a nice shot in the arm to this blog as well as my attitude. The first one premieres Wednesday (March 3) so be sure you don’t miss it! I’m also penning pieces for other blogs, which is a perfect way to get outside my comfort zone. Stay tuned.

What about you? How do you handle moments of doubt? What about longer periods, when it seems like nothing is going to change? Has someone give you a great tip to kick doubt to the curb? Please share in the comments.

Image adapted per permissions. Original image attribution: / CC BY 2.0

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6 thoughts on “This Writer is Kicking Doubt to the Curb

  1. Such is the writer’s life, I’m afraid. Filled with self-doubt and fear. It’s so hard to weather the storm. When I’m having a bad week, month (or longer) it always feels awful – until somehow, miraculously, my bad luck stretch snaps and things start to go “right.” Somehow that’s always the pattern – feast or famine. I truly hope your March is more promising and less problematic for you! You’re strong – you’re making great strides to prepare for success.

  2. Thank you all for sharing your comments, experiences and encouragement. It’s a perfect reminder that I’m not alone.

    ~ Jenne, I love that you still have a folder of your rejection slips. The first time I got a rejection from a magazine editor, I accidentally knocked over a chair as I jumped up from the table. I was so thrilled that I had actually gotten a response and someone was reading my work. Even though I know magazines, websites and literary journals are understaffed, I wish more emphasis was put on providing rejections (even form rejections) than using silence as an answer. It’s reassuring to know that even someone with your publishing wisdom has to fight off doubt on occasion.

    ~2inspired, You’re right: sometimes you do need to let yourself feel bad! And, like you said, you’ve still got to suck it up and move on. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post and shared your own experiences.

    ~Steph, I especially appreciate your reminder that we’re our own worst critics! You’ve inspired me with your blog and being so honest about your experiences (the ups and downs). You’ve shown that opening up and sharing your personal struggles can be more powerful — and empowering — than simply saying “I’m fine.”

    ~Liz, thanks for the laugh! Perfect timing.

  3. Man can I relate!

    I am constantly doubting myself. Even now — at a time when I feel happier with my career than I ever have before, and with work coming in unsolicited — I worry about my finances, or about whether I can handle my workload, or about whether my coaching practice will take off enough so that, at the very least, I can pay back the money my parents loaned me for my certification. It’s maddening!

    Kudos for making a concerted effort to kick doubt to the curb! And remember: We’re our own worst critics. Everyone else seems pretty clear on how awesome we actually are. 😉

  4. I love this post! Thanks for writing it! Since all writers go through this, even the experienced ones like yourself, it helps remind me that rejection is inevitable and definitely not a personal thing. I got a rejection from a magazine as well recently and dealt with it by first feeling sad about it and then trying to find something good about the rejection. It’s the thing I love and hate about this field. I love that I have the opportunity to grow as a person, but sometimes rejection just sucks. And on those days when it’s not so easy to take, I let myself feel bad for as long as I need to. Then I suck it up and move on to the next task.

  5. Hi Jesaka– great post.

    I still have my folder of rejection slips going back many years: some of them were written by famous editors/writers or people now gone.

    However: I have, carefully tucked away, worn copies of the numerous journals that did take my work in my early years as a writer. In 1976 Ms. Magazine featured me next to Carolyn Forche’ as an up and coming woman poet. What a thrill that was. So shine on!

    I spent many years contiuing to write but doing other things, not putting my stuff out there. So many, many things have changed. All the networking and platforming was nonexistent. There were only a few M.F.A. programs; now there are many. The talent pool in this country is huge. Editors have to make very hard choices these days and who knows what drives them.

    My companion cheerfully points out to me that some great writers didn’t see print until they were dead. That never makes me feel better.

    My strategy is to post some of my nonfiction on my blog and put out the word that it’s there. That encourages me to keep going. Obviously you then typically can’t publish it elsewhere, but you get it read. You get supported. I find myself uplifted by one or two comments. I’m planning on pulling together my best pieces and shopping it around– as are a number of other people who are posting or publishing nonfiction/flash memoir.

    Writing for my blog has been all about practice. It helps to feel that I have a small readership; I think it makes my work better. I’m sitting on some pieces, waiting on delivery of a printer ribbon, before I send my first piece back out into the world after a grand total of twenty years… or maybe more. While I wasn’t trying to stay in print, I was living a life that gave rise to my venture into nonfiction.

    My companion also told me that Ernest Hemingway himself suffered constantly with doubt. I read Macomber, for example, and wonder why.

    I’m thinking of asking someone very high profile to do a guest piece on my blog about self-belief; he has twenty-five collections of poems, two novels, a collection of short stories and an anthology in print. He’s written me from time to time complaining that he feels rejected!

    I could on, but I’ll stop, since you didn’t ask for an essay or a ramble from a garrulous 61 year old who is really around 30 inside…. doubt comes and goes, like rain. Nurture yourself through it…. love, j

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