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Monday, September 17, 2012

5 Tips to Overcome Fear of Rejection

Lori Freeland is a freelance writer from the Dallas area. You can find her curled up in a chair, computer on her lap, editing and writing for various Christian publications, polishing her first YA novel, and blogging over at For fun, she coaches writing for the North Texas Christian Writers and teaches classes for new writers. Visit her at

Fear is my word of the day. Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear to finish my novel. Fear not to finish my novel.

 My solution? Write blog posts. Hide. Produce articles. Give them away free. Read writing tips. Edit my friend’s books. Teach. Lead critique groups. Devour writing books. Build up Facebook likes. Share. Tweet. Pin. Single-spaced, at 8-point font, my Stay Busy list could fill this page and probably the next.

 I’ve discovered the secret to avoid the rocks piling in my stomach at the thought of querying and receiving rebuff upon rebuff. Rewrite forever. Draw it out. That way, I’ll never have to send my manuscript to anyone. And I’ll never have to deal with the heart-drop-to-the-floor, breath-cut-off gut punch that is rejection.

 Yesterday, the little part inside of me not held hostage by fear cornered me and asked, “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life wondering what if?” What if my book isn’t awful? What if an agent likes it? What if that agent sells it? What if I sat on this story forever and never knew its potential? What if it actually has potential? What if I do too?

 I have three manuscripts from the early 90’s taking up space on my closet floor, back when we printed everything hard copy and queried through the US Postal Service. Three novels in a series begging for edits on my current hard drive, and five working ideas rattling my head, screaming for release. To date,

I am the not-so-proud owner of two agent rejections to match two of my novels—one from 1993 and one from now. The first rejection came from John Grisham’s agent for my very first book, Midnight’s Darkest Shadows, a historical romance. The agent’s comment? Here’s the recap. “You have potential. Add more sex. Send it back.” Hmm. I’m not really a take-you-behind-closed-doors kind of author, so I pinned that to my wall, got pregnant—look at the irony in that—and quit writing. For twenty years.

 The second rejection came from an up-and-coming agent in New York with a well-established agency. The recap of what she said? “There’s so much I love about this book, but it sounds similar to one I just sold and another sitting on my desk. Do you have anything else?” What did I do with that? Cried a little. Okay. A lot. Filed it under rejections in my email. And started rewriting the book. Again. This will be my fourth time. Because I let one negative comment override the twenty encouragements I received the week before.

 Sounds like hiding, doesn’t it? My husband and thirty-seven of my closest friends and critique buddies would agree.

Can you relate? Do you hide to avoid rejection? How can we be okay with failure? One baby step at a time.

Here are some ways to jump the hurdle of fear and move forward

 1. Stop dwelling on new authors you know who are being published.
 Not forever, just until you’re ready to take that step forward yourself. There is a difference between celebrating with your friends and having an anxiety attack that you aren’t standing on the awards platform next to them.

 2. Quit comparing your journey to another author’s path to publication.
 Like faith, our walks are personal and unique. And that’ s okay.

 3. Realize building a career takes time, effort, and an inordinate amount of patience.
Are you in this thing, or not? Decide and refuse to turn back.

 4. Believe you have something to offer.
Trust your talent. You’ve taken time to do the work, now show it off. Don’t hold back. The worst that can happen…is rejection.

 5. Fuel your passion to succeed with the emotions that rejection brings.
 Instead of hiding in the closet, hand on your piled-up manuscripts, get excited. Take whatever insight you receive and do better next time. One more rejection is a step closer to seeing your name on the cover of a book.

 Stop hiding. Get moving. And don’t wait twenty years like I did.

 Where do you struggle with fear of rejection and what do you hide behind?   


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Lori, you are SOOOO right. We can't compare ourselves, though our every human instinct is to do so. And we have to reach that point of no return where we realize we couldn't STOP writing if we tried, regardless of the number of rejections we receive. Great post, just tweeted it!

Brandi Boddie said...

Great post! The comparison monster is hard to get past. No matter what part of the writing stage we're in, there is always going to be someone ahead of us, or someone that seemingly breezed through the process overnight. I have to remind myself when I get impatient that the publishing industry is not one where you can expect immediate results. It takes extreme dedication.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Thank you! I knew I wasn't the only one out there :) Thanks for tweeting it.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

And extreme dedication pays off. Maybe not always in ways we expect.

DiAne Gates said...

Wonderful post Lori! So wonderful in fact it smacked me right side the head and then back again. Yep, I've traveled this road too. Manuscripts packed in boxes, hiding in the dark recesses of my closets. For years. Until "that" birthday arrived and the voice in my head and heart said "when?"

So ladies and gentlemen, let's link arms, throw caution to the wind and hurl ourselves over that obstacle of fear of rejection and run the final miles in a dead heat to publication. At my age, how much can it hurt? Just gonna buy more stock in Kleenex.

DiAne Gates

Antwuan Malone said...

Awesomeness! I haven't gotten any rejection letters yet, but that's because I have sent anything (yipe!). Way to motivate me though, because I know one day, I'll need this post. Hopefully some day really soon.

Brinda said...

The irony of Lori's words are not lost on me as I frantically read blog post after post seeking the magic formula to success. I think her advice is clear. Don't be afraid to do your best and submit. If you've done your research and honed your skill, move forward.

Claire L. Fishback said...

Love the post! Great tips! I have a HUGE fear of success. What if I AM good enough? I have two rejection letters. One for a short story and one for a novel length work. I'm proud of those rejections because it means I TRIED. I just wish I had more... and an acceptance. :)

Thanks for the tips!!!

Richie Wines said...

Great advice, Lori. I needed to hear it. I especially liked #2.

The fear of rejection is real. It's that voice in my head telling me that all these years and sacrifices I've put into my work will amount to nothing. That at the end I will have wasted my life on a foolish dream.

It is at war with the other voice that tells me that I was born to write. That it is my calling, my gift, my legacy.

And which voice will win today? Thanks for pushing me in the right direction.


Mario said...

Great post! What writer out there doesn't feel these types of fears? Are you out there? Because I'd really like to meet you.

It's nice to know we are normal. Thanks for the encouragement, Lori. Your #2 point is the killer, but then again, doing anything significant in life always takes a lot of work.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

You have been my inspiration not to quit :)

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Maybe your awesomeness will skip the rejection line :)

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Thank you for motivating me. I am always grateful for you kind words.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Isn't odd there's fear both ways? To succeed and to fail. I think it's fear of the unknown. At least for me.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

The right voice. The one telling you NOT to QUIT!

Lori Ann Freeland said...

It is nice to know we are normal. Let's push it through together and keep encouraging each other.

Elizabeth Byler Younts said...

Great post, Lori! I can relate on many levels. I especially loved the 'sex' comment. That is a good one! Keep pushing against the fear. I'm pushing against this at this very moment...and especially later this week!

Renee Gray-Wilburn said...

I think the trap of comparison is one of our biggest enemies. We are all called to a different writing path and must learn to stay on that path and not try to jump onto other people's.

M. Saint-Germain said...

Loved your post, Lori, and your story! Your rejections sound so encouraging. I know, that sounds crazy, doesn't it? But really. you are a story teller. At least the agents/editors gave you good feedback. One guy told me that he had something too similar on his desk to market, too. I told him I'd better hurry and get mine out sooner, but that hasn't happened. Yet.
Stay positive. I'm thrilled that I met you online.
I laughed out loud about the SEX comment. Sheesh. I guess it sells though. That's evident with FIFITY SHADES OF GRAY, isn't it?

Susan Hawthorne said...

what a great post, Lori! Great advice :) It's always hard to create our wonderful characters and have someone just give them a shrug!
But I must say, I know writers who would give their firstborn to get a rejection that invited them to send more!! :)
Stepping through the fear and just DOING it is what we all just have to do. Thanks for the encouragement!!
Susan Hawthorne

Arlee Bird said...

I like the advice. Giving up or not staying active is like writing our own rejections.

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Vonda Skelton said...

Great advice, Lori! Rejections are just the necessary stepping stones to acceptance. :-)

Lori Ann Freeland said...

I will pray for you!

Lori Ann Freeland said...

It's like keeping your eyes on the calling on your life, sometimes we get sidetracked without even realizing it.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Glad I made you laugh and glad we have connected!

Lori Ann Freeland said...

You are welcome! Only writers get other writers :)

Lori Ann Freeland said...

I love the way you put that!

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Yes...and I need to remember that all the time :)

Leigh Ann said...

Lori, this reminds me of a saying I've heard--the only way to fail is to not try.

In my opinion, there's only one reason you don't have an agent and a contract, and it has nothing to do with your amazing writing abilities. It has everything to do with the subject of your post though!

sandra tyler said...

that fear can overwhelm a writer. interesting interview.

Sherry Isaac said...

Amen, Lori, on not comparing career to others, and you are so right, a garden takes time to cultivate, and so does a career. Great post!

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Ha Ha :) You are right. I have an agent meeting in October. So we will go from there.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Thank you.

Lori Ann Freeland said...

Thanks for hopping over here, Sherry :)

Marney McNall said...

Your post could not have come at a more appropriate time. I'm gearing up to send out a query today. Everything you mentioned? Yeah, I've been doing that to keep myself too busy to send those queries and open myself to rejection. Thank you for giving me that little extra push and motivation.

Susan Anderson said...

Oh my gosh. This statement was laugh out loud funny: Hmm. I’m not really a take-you-behind-closed-doors kind of author, so I pinned that to my wall, got pregnant—look at the irony in that—and quit writing. For twenty years.

The other funny thing is that while I sit here at my laptop, hitting very few keys on my YA novel, I thought I needed a pick me up article, so I shopped Twitter posts, and there you are! You are right. What is the worst thing? Rejection. As a Christian, I've suffered it before. Heck, as a human being, it is part of our condition. Thanks for your candid tips.