“I wasn’t going to give up until every single publisher turned me down, but I often feared that would happen…. Don’t you dare let their laughter extinguish your ambition. Turn it into fuel! Big hugs from one writer to another.” J.K. Rowling
“We’ve turned that laughter and ridicule into oxygen and wind at our back.” Tyler Winklevoss, Bitcoin investor
OK, we all know who J. K. Rowling is, but Tyler Winklevoss? He and his twin brother Cameron used a $65 million settlement from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame to invest in a once-shaky venture called Bitcoin. Recently, their investment doubled.
What struck me about these comments when I saw them back to back was the idea of turning other people’s laughter and ridicule into fuel: What a useful tool for us as writers!
At first glance, thinking of ridicule and rejection as a source of energy – a kind of negative nourishment – seems a bit bizarre, doesn’t it? After all, how exactly do you do this: Take a response from the world that’s deflating and use it to energize and put new life into our work and our willpower? How do we transform a response that takes the wind out of our sails into the oxygen we need to make those sails billow and blow us where we want to go?
To me, all this sounds a bit like alchemy. But we writers are alchemists, after all. We turn wisps of ideas and experiences into words and stories. So we should surely be able to transform rejection into rocket fuel. A few suggestions on this front:
Remember, it’s opinion, not fact: It’s easy and tempting to take rejection personally: to believe that someone else is right and we’re wrong about our work. But why give them that power? Belief is fuel. When we believe in our work and its value, it’s easier to take rejection for what it really is: One person’s opinion. Just think about editors who passed on Harry Potter because they thought kids wouldn’t want to read about wizards.
Make “don’t quit, can’t fail” your mantra: Persistence is fuel. When we make the decision, despite other people’s views, to keep going and growing, to keep working on our work and improving it, we’re turning rejection into fuel. This is what J.K. Rowling seems to have done: She vowed not to give up – and she prevailed!
Remember that “feedback is the breakfast of champions: Feedback is fuel. Sometimes a rejection carries within it the seeds of our success. If we can be bold and brave about using it to figure out what’s not working in our work, then we can tweak and fine-tune and maybe even do major surgery to take it to the next level.
Adopt an “I’ll show you” attitude: Sometimes it helps to just get mad and ticked off about other people’s blindness and obtuseness. Anger is fuel: It can be very motivating: Let’s use if productively. Instead of beating ourselves up, let’s get busy proving people wrong.
Laugh it off: We can take a tip from our fellow scribes and turn our rejections into a source of amusement (see Rejection Club). Laughter is fuel.
OK, let’s start our engines. Ready, set, create! Write on!