From Sarah, With Joy

*Poet * Author * Wanderluster*

Monday, July 3, 2017

Two Ways You Might Be Self-Rejecting Your Own Writing

I'm fighting self-rejection at this very moment, actually.

As I'm sitting at my computer trying to decide what to blog about, every idea I come up with seems dumb. Including this one. You guys are already pros. You don't need my two bits. I've got a shelf next to me of books by Ellen Degeneres and Jim Gaffigan and Dave Barry and when I'm working on bloggy stuff I pull one of those books out and glance through it for inspiration, but what often ends up happening is that I see how hilarious these guys are and I'm like, well, if I post anything ever, someone's going to hold up my drivel next to the genius of Dave Barry and it will by like Tyra Banks entering a beauty contest with a blob fish.

Okay, I'm being over-dramatic here, but there are some not very nice monsters that can sneak into our brains sometimes. And really, self-rejection and self-doubt can be like an anvil tied to the ankle of a swimmer. You may be Micheal Freaking Phelps but if you're attached to that anvil you ain't goin nowhere.

As I've struggled with starting new projects lately, and as I've talked with writer friends, I've noticed too serious ways we writers tend to self-reject ourselves. I mean, we get rejected enough. We get the proverbial door slammed in our face all the time, there is NO reason we should be slamming it on ourselves.

1. We Self-Reject our Original Ideas. This is the one I've been dealing with lately. I finished a novel several months ago and it was one of the easiest novels I've ever written and it just felt natural and fun. But ever since then, every tiny idea that's come through my head has been like a little ant under the boot of self-rejection. Every idea has felt stupid and dumb. I get a spark of something and then the monster in my brain says, "No, that's not how things really go." Or, "No, that idea isn't going to interest anybody but you."

So what to do about? I say we should call it the jerk-face meanie poo monster that it really is, see it as a voice separate and apart from our true selves, put a sound-proof glass box around the nasty beast, and ignore it. Or at least do our best to most of the time. This has helped me. I've wanted to write short stories to submit to places like Asimov's or FSF but I've been stuck. But once I realized that this doubt voice was one I didn't have to listen to, I thought to myself, well heck, I'm going to write a story about sister missionaries in space if I darn well please. Who knows if it's going to end up succeeding anywhere, but I'm sure having a dang fun time writing it. And more importantly, I can already tell that the writing is more vibrant, engaging, and alive, then it would be if I was trying to paint-by-numbers some idea I thought would be what everyone else wanted to see.

2. We Self-Reject our Final Product. We're writers, which means words are our business. Ink-blobs on the page is what we're trying to sell, and sometimes it can feel weird. Like standing on the street corner asking people to by a picture of us. But it's not that. You know how the best writers have impacted your life, and what they have done for you. They've given you everything, haven't they? I know that's what writers like C.S. Lewis and Wallace Stegner have done for me. Now, I'm not saying we're going to be Lewis's and Stegners, but we shouldn't be embarrassed that we're doing what they did either. We're making beautiful things. Maybe even art.

When you have a finished piece (and I mean redrafted, beta-read, spit-shined finished) then don't let the self-doubt monster stop you there. You've done it. Now show it. Let the world benefit from your voice and your hard work, and trust that it will in fact benefit. Because someone will, and you may never know. But trust. Yeah you'll still get rejected from the outside, and that rejection sucks too, but just keep going. Make them reject you, don't reject yourself from the outset. Keep your finished pieces out in circulation. When your poem is done, send it. When your novel is done and the best you can make it, query.

You can do it.



  1. Self-doubt is pretty much the biggest thing I struggle with. I'm naturally shy and retiring anyway, and self-conscious about showing anyone my work, so asking them to pay for it is a big thing. Even with positive feedback, I'm still not 100% convinced by it, which is a horrible thing to say about my CPs as they have no reason to give anything but an honest opinion. But really, this post is like a shot in the arm, so thanks. I'm going to go forth and try to believe in myself!

  2. Hi, Sarah, got here via Nick's blog, great post. Regarding number 2, I also think about the self-sabotage I do (and probably many of us). When someone asks about my writing, and I kind of mumble about what I'm working on, and then disparage it. "It's not very good," I mumble, or, "I like the idea, but it's a complete mess" or,"I doubt it will ever get published." I think in a way self-rejection might be a form of self-protection. If we reject it ourselves, maybe we think it will hurt less if/when it is rejected by agents, editors, the public.

  3. When I am sick of all the rewriting, I just submit it and write something else till the rejection slip arrives. If there are comments, ?I consider them. If it's a printed slip, I give the publisher the virtual finger and send it elsewhere.
    That's all you can do.
    Just Finished Reading Ballad For A Mad Girl

  4. I think the second of the two is probably the larger problem. I've definitely given up on stories prematurely, but I guess putting them on my blog doesn't have to be a bad thing, especially with my earlier work. I'm less willing to throw in the towel on stories now than I was two years ago. I think for the sake of time, it can be fine to self-reject from the first category. But of course, you have to write something at some point, and you're better off writing the story you want to write than writing something cookie-cutter (usually) or not writing anything at all.


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