“I’d literally been told I wasn’t pop-star material.” Sir Elton John
When my dear friend and gifted writer, Linda, quoted this line from Me, Elton John’s autobiography, we both had a good laugh. Needless to say, the naysayer Elton encountered on his way to being a global superstar called to mind many others.
Consider all the people who breezily dismissed J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book. I still recall the words of one all-knowing gatekeeper who said, “A boy wizard? I just don’t see it.” Famous last words!
Or how about all the people who turned down Carrie, Stephen King’s breakthrough novel? At one point, he was so discouraged he actually through his manuscript away. It survived only because his wife retrieved it and convinced him to go on.
Or bestselling author Ken Follett, who was mightily discouraged by people in the know when he decided to take a major detour from writing thrillers and pen a door-stopping historical novel about cathedrals? P.S. Pillars of the Earth went on to become his most beloved and popular book.
The list goes on and on. I’m sure we could all add tons of names of creatives to it. Anyone bold enough to create will always encounter naysayers, people who oppose, disparage, and are skeptical about what we’re tying to do: Naysayers, wet blankets, people who rain on our parades, who don’t believe in us or our work.
What to do? What to do? I think there are three fruitful responses we can have:
First, consider the source – naysayers aren’t creators, they’re condemners. Generally, for whatever reason, they are not out there doing what we do: writing, creating, daring – putting our work out there. They’re content to sit on the sidelines and observe. So, objectively speaking, how can they know anything at all about us and our gifts?
Second, we can keep our distance. When we encounter people like this, instead of absorbing their negativity, we can deflect it and limit our exposure. Sometimes, we simply have to let some people fade away from our lives if they don’t wish us well.
Third, we can build a support system for success. A gifted entrepreneur once told me, “There are plenty of support systems for failure out there. What you need is to build a support system for success.” Wise words! Let’s surround ourselves with yeasayers – or better yet, “yaysayers” — people who believe in us, who applaud us, who take the time to help us, who’ll be honest and encouraging at the same time. They are out there – let’s bring them into our lives and help each other to survive and thrive. Write on!
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