Monday, April 18, 2011

Nurturing the Fragile Writer's Ego

Most writers have dual egos about their writing--the "I'm writing a best-seller" side vs. the "this book swam up the sewage river" side. When we query or submit our work, another side erupts--the vulnerable one. As much as we want the agent or editor to fall madly in love with our words, all too often we deal with silence or rejection.

Fragile
Photo by bb_matt

Continuous rejection can damage our fragile writer's ego--if we let it.

I believe it's vital to find and utilize methods to strengthen our vulnerable ego, or the danger to quit presses too closely. Instead of focusing on our writing, our brains jot off on tangents. "Maybe my query stunk?" "I know there was an extra comma in that paragraph." "Is it the character? The writing? The concept? Me??"

Instead of letting my mind whirl on a merry-go-round of useless what-if's and why's, I evaluate why I'm doubting. If it's because I got a rejection, I study the letter to see if there are any clues as to what went wrong. If an editor gives advice, I give a lot of thought to what is said.

Sometimes I grow doubtful for no reason or for weird reasons. Usually, I'm just scared that it will never happen for me--that I've wasted years and hours and tears and brain cells for a poof in the air. That none of my writing will be available for others to read--a devastating thought.

Whatever the reason, when my ego plunges and doubts swirl, I force myself to focus.

Focus? Great! That helps...not at all. How do I focus when my skin feels paper thin? I'm already focusing too much--on what went wrong. What do I focus on?

Focus on your writing. Focus on your work-in-progress. Focus on improving your grammar, tightening your prose, nailing your characters. When we put our focus on the actual writing, the doubts slip away because we're having fun again. The career side of writing pales with the sheer pleasure of creating.

Never let a blow to your ego kill your dreams. Focus.

How do you nurture your fragile ego?

On a let's-hear-it-for-good-news note--Julie Musil landed an agent!! She's now represented by Karen Grencik of the Karen Grencik Literary Agency! Pop over to her blog, Julie Musil, and congratulate her!! Congratulations, Julie!!
Also, Tess Hardwick's debut book, Riversong, is now available! For more details, head to her website, Tess Hardwick. Congratulations, Tess!

Have a fabulous Monday!

34 comments:

  1. When it's time to query I try and go in with low expectations and try, try to see it as impersonal. I don't always succeed. It's never easy.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I feel fragile or rejected I go back to emails or notes I've received that's encouraging, then I get back to writing--where it's fun and I get to escape for a little while! Great post, Jill!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post Jill! I'm not in the querying phase yet, but I still get doubts whether I will ever 'make it' as a writer. What helps me to focus is to let it go into God's hands. Ultimately, I want to do His will, whatever that means for me...but that doesn't mean it's easy! And let's not forget: writers should also lift and encourage each other, we're in this journey together...

    ReplyDelete
  4. My writer friends sooth my wounded soul when I get rejections, and encourage me on.

    ReplyDelete
  5. A blow to the ego: have a little pity party, some chocolate (maybe lots of chocolate), then pull your big girl panties up and move on. (-;

    ReplyDelete
  6. Perspective helps. Sometimes the weight of what I'm doing, this novel writing business has the potential to swell up so much it floods my mind from remembering all the other reasons I'm here.

    Congrats, Julie!
    ~ Wendy

    ReplyDelete
  7. Laura: I agree, and some rejections are easier to take than others. Also, I have periods of doubts months in between querying! Always something!!

    Jessica P: Same here! I keep a folder of all the encouraging e-mails and letters I've received.

    Rachel B: Definitely! Prayer keeps me whole--great reminder!

    Em: Yep. Absolutely--and you're one of mine!

    CJ: Well, how did you find my recipe for recovery? Pity party, check. Double dose of chocolate, check. Big girl panties, bring 'em on! :)

    Wendy: Isn't that the truth? I hate it when I get obsessed and realize I'm missing life!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Great post, Jill! We have no control over how others respond to our writing, but we do have control over the writing and that's a great place to focus our energy! Thanks :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love your graphic for this post. :-)

    Even after publication, we can still get the 'rejection' of a bad review. The same remedies work: keep writing, spend time doing simple things that remind me of what matters in life.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Yep, I do the same thing. Get to work on the next project.

    After following CJ's advice. :)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Doubts are the pits, but they seem to be an inevitable part of the writer's life. Writing our way through them can be tough, but that's what I've been doing lately, and it's working, much to my relief.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I find my fellow writers help nurture my ego - with a few strokes of encouragement and Twitter Coffee ;)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Oooh, I didn't know about Julie! Need to hop over there! thx!

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is an outstanding post, Jill.

    I learned a long time ago that you need to have a bit of a thick skin to be in this business.

    Like you said, "Never let a blow to your ego kill your dreams. Focus." -best advice I've heard in a week.

    If I get stung by a rejection, I step back, look for clues, maybe shed a tear, but I always come back...step forward and move on.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Paul: I agree, we can't control a lot of things, but we can control our writing. Plus, it never takes long for me to get in the groove!

    Rosslyn: I know. We have no control over other people's opinions. Sometimes we hit them on a bad day and they take it out on us. Life's hard. :)

    Erica: Naturally! :)
    Keli: Yeah, I feel the same. And many times my problems work themselves out through my heroes and heroines.

    Jaime: Twitter and coffee work wonders for bruised egos!

    Jennifer S: I know, isn't it fantastic?? Yay!!

    Loree: Maybe we need a thick skin with life in general? I think some of the tough situations I dealt with in my first career have helped me deal with the ups and downs of trying to make writing my career. We keep stepping forward, right?

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks for the encouraging words, Jill! It IS important to focus on our WIP. Too often I get discouraged with my seeming lack of progress, until I realize that writing day by day will get me to that point of being able to submit - eventually! Have a great week and God bless! Congratulations to Julie and Tess!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Jill- I tend to be very fragile when it comes to my writing-- probably because I'm putting my heart on paper so it feels like a personal attack when someone doesn't like it. So, last week when someone blogged a negative review (ACK!) I cried. I should've let it roll off my back, but I didn't.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Even though I think the tendency is to curl inward (fetal position anyone?) I think it's important to reach out for that hand to pull you up when you've been knocked down. I can't count how many times I've gotten encouragement from other writers, but it takes saying, "Hey, this sucks" for others to say, "Yeah, it does."

    Thanks for this, Jill! I also like C.J.'s approach, but I'd add wine with my chocolate ;P

    ReplyDelete
  19. At first, I may get down and debate whether to give myself a little vacation from writing. Then I remind myself that no matter how many rejections I receive, I am still pursuing my dream and doing what God has called me to do. In the end, He is the one who will provide the rewards and exaltations. Colossians 3:23-24 reminds me that nothing we do for God goes unnoticed by Him.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jill, you are such a sweetheart. Thanks so much for the kind mention.

    Hearty congratulations to Tess! I'll hop over there now.

    This post is excellent. Tomorrow I"m posting about validation, and I'm going to link to this. We all struggle with a fractured ego from time to time, with a sprinkling of validation in between.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Jill, it's so fun when I finish a post on my own blog and then dig into Google reader to find other people on almost the same stream of thought! Here's to validation and believing the best, not the worst, about our writing!

    ReplyDelete
  22. Maria: Oh, I know that feeling! It's easy to poo-poo our progress (I only wrote THIS many words?) but if we take a step back and look at how much we've accomplished in the previous month, we see how far we've come!

    Erin: I would have sobbed! And I'm sorry you had to experience that. As Caroline See wrote in one of her excellent books, "It's none of my business what another person's opinion of me is." Be proud of your book!!

    Beth: Yep--fetal position all the way! And writers are soooo helpful. Chances are, many of our friends have been in the exact same position. You're right--we just have to reach out!

    Brandi: Definitely. When I'm really discouraged and not sure about what to do, I pray. God rarely tells me to take a vacay from writing!

    Julie M: Yay!! Congrats again!! I'm with you on the validation thing. If all we ever get is discouragement and pain, it's very hard to continue. That's why positive comments from our critique partners, contest results, and even on our social networks can make such an impact on our lives.

    Niki: Right on! Why should we believe the worst? Come on! We need to see the best!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a great reminder -- to focus on the writing. It is disheartening to get a rejection. It might also be a bit of an ego boost to remember that many great works of fiction were rejected repeatedly before being published.

    That's fabulous news about Julie!

    ReplyDelete
  24. I once heard an author say that there are three sides to everything--the sharp side, the dull side and the stupid side. With a hammer, the sharp side is the one you use to drive the nail in. The dull side is the one you use to pry it out. The stupid side is the one you hit your thumb with. My sharp side is the one that writes, writes, writes. My dull side edits, reconfigures and modifies. My stupid side assails me with doubts. I try to avoid the stupid side.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Every time I think I have developed a thick skin, something happens to bring out that vulnerable, fragile ego. Usually, though, it isn't rejection that gets me down--I'm prepared for that. It's more personal, everyday kind of events that hit me hardest.

    Thanks for sharing this. Focusing on the work in progress in always good advice.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Great advice! Love the picture too. Sometimes I feel like the egg, sometimes the hammer.

    ReplyDelete
  27. i take editors with a grain of salt. they are doing their job, my job is to harass them, threaten their families and stomp around their office in a manic rage until they cave in and publish my drevel the way i like it.

    if that doesn't work, i threaten to call their spouse and inform on them for that little office party romance, real or crafted, and not so subtly black mail them.

    if that doesn't work, i pay for the drinks all night, and wait for a moment of non clarity, and get a drunken commitment from them

    if none of the above doesn't work, after getting mad, ruining their marriage, and getting them drunk, i try to get all passive aggressive, and make it up to them by carrying their belongings which have been tossed out the window to the car, place them in the trunk, very kindly, and drive off leaving the guy now homeless with only the clothes on his back.

    at this point, they cave and publish.


    Sarcastic Sam Tweets at @Samuel_Clemons

    ReplyDelete
  28. Megan: Welcome! Hearing other writers' struggles to get published definitely helps me. I love the website, Write Attitude (http://www.writeattitude.net/), the author journey's page especially.

    Sarah T: I've never heard that analogy, but I love it! Who wants to use their stupid side--I'm keeping that one! Thanks!

    Miss Good: Welcome! Oh, yeah, same here. Just when I'm mentally able to handle anything, something deflates my armor and I'm back on my knees praying!

    Kathi: Ha! You know, sometimes I'm both too! :)

    Samuel: Welcome! Remind me never to get you mad at me! Here--have a contract!! :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  29. Exceptional post Jill. We are constantly berated by all of the negative issues on the business side of writing. It becomes a major distraction but you're very right. If we just dive back into the story and start tweaking we forget all of that torture, we're back in the world we love and once we hit the end again our confidence is back along with a stronger piece.

    ReplyDelete
  30. I like to expand this advise to all areas of my life. Focusing on the current task instead of on the feelings of rejection or failure eventually conflicts with the success of Doing. And getting better all the time!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. P.W.: It's very hard to ignore all of the outside stuff, but I've forced myself to tune it out while I write. And I always feel better after a writing session!

    Lynn: So true. We don't fret over just one aspect--we have doubts in many areas. It's good to focus on what we're doing right!

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  32. I agree--writing is the best distraction! I have a book out right now and the wait is maddening--but I'm completely absorbed in a new project, which helps me not obsess :). Besides, each book I write is better than the previous, so even if this one doesn't find a home, by the time I have to give up on it, I'll have a new book--and a new hope--to nurture. Terrific post!

    ReplyDelete
  33. Cheryl: Woo-hoo!! Hope you hear great news soon! I'm with you, too. I always have a project in the works. And I remind myself that whatever happens is for the best. :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I think that focusing on your writing is the best way to get over rejection blues. You are absolutely correct. It still hurts, but moving forward eases the pain.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you!