Positive Writer

Writing through doubt and fear, and you can, too!

Writers, Why You Must Beware of the Rejectionists or Risk Utter Failure

There’s a new bandwagon in the writing community, actually, it’s in nearly every community. The trend dictates that it’s okay to fail, in fact, it’s not just okay – you should expect to fail. And if you’re not careful you might jump on, tricked into not living your passion and not striving to achieve your goals.

Indeed, failure is imminent. I’ve even stated as much. But there’s a problem and I discovered it the hard way. (It’s always the hard way, isn’t it?)

Expecting Failure is Not Okay

The problem is not with the message that we all fail from time to time, because we do. The problem is with how some are modifying it, as a pass to not try one’s best, to not go all out, and others are receiving it as an invitation to give up when the going gets tough or seems too complicated.

These are the messages a particular group I call rejectionists are spreading, that it’s okay to expect to fail. That, in fact, you will fail, so why even try. They are the ones who’ve always tried to keep you in “your place,” because they’ve never strived with every ounce of their being to reach their dreams, they’ve never challenged the status quo, and they’ve never dared to go beyond the breaking point and risk not succeeding.

And, quite sadly, they never will. So, in order to not feel terribly bad about their shortcomings they’ve become doomsayers and seek to stop others, to the point of talking you into quitting before you’ve actually attempted anything worthwhile. They don’t want you to have the audacity to be a writer.

I know this all too well, because I was convinced by such a person to quit writing, it’s a woeful, but true story. I share the story in Writer’s Doubt, but the gist of it is I was embarrassed in front of an entire class of “better” scribblers by the professor as she stated I would never be a writer, and dumbass impressionable me listened to her and stopped writing for TEN LONG YEARS.

I got up, walked out of her class and walked away from writing for a decade. My eventual success as a writer, as an author, doesn’t make me feel any better about what happened or give me any sense of gratification. It still burns me to reflect on it. In a very real way she convinced me to expect to fail and I gave up.

Yes, it’s okay to fail and to learn from failure.

But it’s not okay to expect to fail.

We have to get back up and try again as soon as possible, perhaps with something new and some experience earned the hard way.

When we expect to fail simply because “it’s okay to fail” then we are in a very real way talking ourselves into failure.

It’s not okay to talk ourselves into failure!

It’s not okay to use the reasoning that “we all fail” to not give our very best, to not stretch beyond ourselves, and to not strive to be the best we can be. After all, never forget the fact that you have the ability to be awesome!

If failure becomes an option that we embrace before we’ve given every ounce of our being into a project, we’ll never create anything beyond what we think we are already capable of.

Expecting failure is not okay. Such an expectation will cost you the gift to strive and thrive. Do not jump on this bandwagon and if you’re on it, hop off of it now.

If we give in to the option of failure before we’ve gone far beyond our own breaking points and exhausted our abilities further than any limits we’ve encountered, then we are cheating ourselves of our true potential.

Perhaps you’re a writer who has thus far only written short stories, but has always dreamed the secret dream of one day writing your magnum opus, an epic trilogy about flying dolphins and other cool stuff, but because it seems beyond you, and since failure is, well, after all, okay, you choose not to go for it. Those scraps of notes of yours end up going to waste because it’s “okay.”

Come on!

Dammit! It’s not okay.

If we’re not going to try hard, if we’re not going to put ourselves into a position to push against the status quo, and live through the fitful, sleepless nights of believing we’ll never get to “The End.” Then hell no, absolutely not. It’s not okay!

Clearly, it’s ridiculous to think you’ll succeed at everything you try, but it’s better to believe you can succeed than to embrace failure before you’ve failed.

“The doubters said,
 ‘Man can not fly,’
The doers said,
 ‘Maybe, but we’ll try,’
And finally soared
In the morning glow
While non-believers
Watched from below.”

―Bruce Lee

When we embrace failure before we’ve given our all, we are giving in to the rejectionists. Heck, if they’ve done their job right, they’ve knocked you down a few pegs as well.

You know who I am talking about.

They are far worse and more deadly than haters, because the rejectionists try to stop you before you get started. The haters at the very least hate what you’ve achieved.

Indeed, you do know who the rejectionists are. They’re everyone who has ever said you couldn’t and wouldn’t – that YOU ARE NOT good enough.

When we give into failure before we’ve failed or worse, even tried, the doomsayers become our friends; they’re the ones we’ll go to for sage advice and comfort. They’ll wrap their arms around our backs as close buddies would and lets us know, you know, it’s okay, you were going to fail anyway. So stop trying so hard. In fact, stop trying at all.

Unfortunately, many of these people have esteemed credentials to back up their assertions.

On January 3, 1956, British Astronomer, Dr. Richard van der Riet Woolley, told TIME that he rejected the notion of going into space, because he believed it was nonsense and a wasteful use of money to attempt it. “It’s utter bilge,” he said. “It is all rather rot.” Woolley’s protestations came just one year prior to the launch of Sputnik 1, five years before the start of the Apollo Program, and thirteen years before the first manned landing on the Moon. (Source)

The blank page deserves to be blank. Right?

Wrong!

Beware! There’s a rejectionist in you, too (he’s in all of us), and if you let him, he’ll take control of you by getting you to listen and believe the external rejectionists and you’ll never write your magnum opus.

You’re story is waiting to be written. It’s there. It’s in you. It’s begging to come out. But it’s not going to write itself. You need to write it. Let the rejectionists rage. That’s all they are about anyway. But not you. No, not you.

Instead, surround yourself with those who believe in you, those who expect more and better from you, who will challenge you to greater levels of ability, the one’s who want you to strive and thrive. The good news is, you know who they are, too.

Take John F. Kennedy for example, he saw going into space differently:

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win. (Source)

― John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962.

In a very real sense, Kennedy was saying:

Let’s do this!

The audacity! We’ve got to surround ourselves with positive can-doers, or get eaten by sharks – er, I mean, the rejectionists. (Not fair to sharks.)

I’d like to ask you to try an exercise today. Consider something you were talked out of, or even convinced yourself not to do, because you expected to fail.

Got it? Good.

Now visualize in your mind’s eye someone who you admire speaking directly to you, convincing you that the effort is more than worth it and the challenge is one that you are willing to accept, one that you are unwilling to postpone and one which you intend to win.

Audacious. Isn’t it?

Go write. Write not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Write because you’re a writer and that’s what writers do.

Let’s do this!

About Bryan Hutchinson

I'm a positive writer and when that doesn't work, I eat chocolate. I help fellow writers overcome doubt and thrive! In my free time, I love visiting castles with my wife, Joan. Join me on Twitter and Facebook.

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Like a good friend, Bryan guides you through the process of facing your inner demons, conquering the craft, and creating work that matters. ―Jeff Goins
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  • Thanks for the inspiring article Bryan!

    Sorry to hear about your story with that professor! I’ve had similar experiences in the past and I know what you mean when you say that it still “burns you” to this day.

    Of course, the best part of this story is that you overcame those comments and you are here writing these excellent blog posts today. Congrats and keep going!

  • I never gave up. I cared too much. So I published my own “magnum opus”, “The Silent Tempest”. Now it’s time to do it all over again. Not because it’s easy, but because it is hard.

    Thank you for what has to be the most inspiring article about writing I’ve ever read.

  • Susan Mary Malone

    This is so thought provoking, Bryan. It truly gave me pause. I blog a lot about failure–writers do face it quite often. We fail while writing the novel. Then dust off our behinds and write again. We get a “failure” review (tough not to focus on those!). Then dive back and in and prove that reviewer wrong.
    But the idea of expecting failure causing folks to quit before they really begin–or, as you did, stop for ten years–just hurts my heart. Because as you say, that’s the antithesis of what dealing with failure is all about.
    I’ve had many books published, and one that “failed” two years ago. Or, that’s how it seemed. Then a year ago a much better publisher bought the rights, and it’s being republished this fall, with all the hoopla: http://www.susanmarymalone.com/books/fiction/i-just-came-here-to-dance/
    Had I stayed stuck in the failure, this wouldn’t be happening.
    Thank you for this article. Truly, truly thought provoking!

    • That’s awesome news, Susan. I’m happy for you. Keep me updated.

  • Krithika Rangarajan

    Well, you left me teary-eyed – again.
    There is pain in your words….there is power in your words…there is profound courage in your words…
    Kitto
    Kitto

    • Darning! I checked it out, have you sent it out to a few readers you know who might honestly review it on Amazon? A few honest reviews will help attract more sales.

      • I don’t know which readers to give it an honest review.

          • I’ve checked out the website, but I don’t understand how to register. Every time I try to, the page just takes me to descriptions of courses, without a register box in which to type my user name, etc. There’s a log-in box for people who are already members, but no real option for registering. I don’t get it.

          • Go to this link https://storycartel.com/registration and click the registration button at the bottom, be sure to read the about and the launch page. There’s a menu at the top, but first register for free.

          • I registered, and everything’s OK there; but my novel is an EROTIC horror novel, and it says they don’t publish ‘pornographic content.’ Am I out of luck, or is there a particular interpretation of what ‘pornographic’ means?

          • Good point, I hadn’t realized that. My suggestion then is to find a few people interested in your book and ask them to review it. Give them free copies. Good luck! 🙂

  • Wow yes and wow. Rejectionist can be in our own head, voices from our past and fear that screams from our future..thanks Bryan for speaking truth boldly .. Once again !! Time now for me to slay some sharks !!

    Nancy
    http://Www.intentionallife.me

  • Martha Hodges

    Of course Bryan,
    Do you know how many people have told me to stop writing? What can a dog actually contribute to the world?

    Thank you for your bravery and for bolding writing.
    I really must read your book.

    http://www.thecatwhowrites.com (I know. I know. A dog writing on a cat’s blog. But my best friend Pooh, a cat, died, so I am taking over for now.)
    xo
    Love Martha

  • I agree with you 100%. I’m sure you’ve seen videos and posts about “famous failures,” such as Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, The Beatles, and Michael Jordan. What if they had given up after being rejected? Or failing?

    Great post, Bryan. And I know several people who have been told they would never be a writer. And guess what? They are!

  • Tara G.C.

    Thank you! Finally someone points out how ridiculous this failure-embracing culture is.

    People go around claiming failure as if it’s something to be admired. And then they have the nerve to shame the rest of us for being brave enough to believe in ourselves. Really, how dare we!

    When have we become so damn skeptical that failure’s been branded the most obvious reality? I honestly am baffled.

    • The most obvious reality? Gosh, I hope not! I’d hate to think we’re all doomed. 🙂

      • Tara G.C.

        Doomed? Now you’re being dramatic. Must have caught it from me. 😀

  • Isn’t it the old adage of ‘If at first you don’t succeed try. try again. Yes you will get rejections but keep on writing you know it’s what you want to do.

  • Sharon Roe

    x “it’s better to believe you can succeed than to embrace failure before you’ve
    failed.” I like the way you put that. So succinctly nails it. Because that’s
    what we’re doing when we come up with all the “practical” reasons why
    we shouldn’t attempt something. And all that’s just bosh. All the people in the
    world who are wildly successful have at least this one thing in common: they
    think audaciously. They expect “setbacks” instead of “failure,” and they plan accordingly. Like Disney said, “Keep moving forward.”