DO NOT SELF-REJECT!
Sweet friends —
I've been on book tour for almost a week now (THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HAVE COME OUT TO SEE ME!) and I find that one of the questions people keep asking me is: "What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?"
Do I have advice? Man, do I EVER — and loads of it. (My adivce includes but is not limited to: Try not to go into debt for your art; set regular working hours; join or create a group of fellow writers to keep you motivated and free of isolation; don't edit as you go or you'll get stuck in the mud; don't negotiate with the terrorists inside your head who tell you that you suck…and so forth.)
But my primary advice is: DO NOT SELF-REJECT.
Do not stop yourself from putting your work out into the world because you fear it's not good enough. Women, I find, are especially susceptible to this habit. We have the tendency to take ourselves out of the game before the game even begins, because we decided well in advance if any risk that we aren't good enough, smart enough, talented enough, pretty enough, whatever enough. We stop ourselves because we fear we are not perfect.
(May I just say it frankly here? HAVING AN IDEA OR PRODUCT THAT IS NOT QUITE PERFECT NEVER STOPPED MEN FROM PUTTING THEIR WORK OUT INTO THE WORLD!!!! So don't let it stop you, ladies.)
We self-reject sometimes because it's easier than being rejected by someone else. We also do it because we have been taught to be humble or self-effacing, or maybe because we are surrounded by messages (JUST A FEW) that constantly suggest that we somehow aren't good enough. We self-reject because the terrorists who live in our heads love nothing more than to remind us daily that we are unworthy.
Put forth your work (and yourself) anyhow.
You must learn that rejection and criticism won't kill you. I'm not saying it's fun, but it's not fatal. It's also inevitable. Somewhere in NYC there are young people in busy publishing houses who get paid $20,000 a year to sit at desks reading unsolicited manuscripts all day and rejecting them. That's their job — not yours. DON'T DO THEIR JOB FOR THEM! If your work isn't ready, let them decide — don't you dare decide it on their behalf.
Let them reject you, is what I am saying, for that is their task. Your task is to not give up. You task is to keep shoving your work in front of their faces, year after year, until they surrender. Keep at it for enough years, and eventually you will break them down. Eventually you will catch somebody at a weak moment, at an open-hearted moment, and they will have no choice but to cave in and love your work and publish you.
There's no hurry. It can take years. It took me years. It takes everyone years. But don't stop harassing the world with your work until the world gives up and embraces you.
This doesn't just go for writing, by the way. This goes for everything. Absolutely everything.
Be fearless, my dear soldiers. Don't hold yourself back for anything. Rejection stings, but it ain't gonna kill you.
All my love,