How do you know with certainty that you have what it takes?
A writer’s life can be full of rejection, dejection, and questions about whether their work is even any good to begin with. What will get you through these inevitable downward spirals is belief in yourself.
I’ve become pretty immune to rejections when they arrive for pitches, but I’m still learning how to deal with book rejections, criticisms of my fiction, or ideas that I believe in, but may have gone nowhere.
So how do you believe in yourself as a writer? How do you know with certainty that you really have talent and skill when everything in your career seems to come ricocheting back at full speed?
Here are some ways.
1. Go back to basics
There was a time, before that first rejection letter, that first critique, and that first spasm of doubt, when you believed, totally believed, that you could be a writer. You believed you could live the dream. What made you come to writing in the first place? What made you so sure you’d succeed? What changed?
Go back to the source of your beliefs and stay there awhile. Allow yourself childlike dreams of success.
2. Give yourself easy wins
A couple of months ago, I wrote about easy wins in my newsletter and was amazed at the response. I got so many emails from people who had to remind themselves that once in a while, they had to aim low so they could experience that tiny bit of success.
Easy wins are one of the best ways to start believing in yourself again. Go get one now. If you’re lacking belief in your abilities, get an easy win. Then reward yourself when you get it.
3. Make it chase after you
You know when you go after an easy win and even they reject you? It sucks. It royally, completely blows. You’re already feeling low and then this editor at a $100-a-piece market you don’t even respect doesn’t even bother responding, or worse, rejects you. That kind of rejection can make a battle-hardy freelancer cry.
What should you do? Disconnect. Take a break from it all. Don’t write for two weeks, or three, or four, if you can afford not to. Let inspiration come back begging. It will, I promise, just when you’re getting used to your life of leisure.
4. Trust your gut
You hear all these stories of people who got rejected year after year and refused to give up. Despite what agents, publishers, and other people said, they still stuck it out. They went to battle for their book, their idea, their whatever. Eventually, they succeeded. And it’s easy to think, yeah, I would have, too. Have you seen that book? Of course that was worth sticking with. But when it’s your own work, you question. You go, well, maybe they’re right. There can’t possibly be a market for this sort of thing. Can there?
You must trust your gut. You must believe in yourself. You’re especially susceptible to self doubt if, like me, you write for a living and give a lot of thought to markets and readers. It’s sometimes tempting to be a cold hard businessperson and say, well, this idea sucks, let’s try something else. It’s harder to say, no, wait, I believe in this. Let’s try again. And again. And again.
The more you practice believing in yourself, the bigger that belief becomes. And you should try it with other aspects of your life as well. Believe that you’re a good parent. Believe that you’re a wonderful life partner. Believe that you’re a thoughtful, communicative daughter even if your mother insists you’re not.
Practice believing in yourself, as silly as that may sound.
6. Enlist help
Sometimes you think you suck and there is, in that moment, no changing that. So call over your girlfriends, your mother, your best mate from college, or your wife, and ask them to believe for you.
Because belief, even when it’s not yours, can still be contagious.
Natasha Khullar Relph
Founder and Editor, The Wordling
Natasha Khullar Relph is an award-winning journalist and author with bylines in The New York Times, TIME CNN, BBC, ABC News, Ms. Marie Claire, Vogue, and more.
She is the founder of The Wordling, a weekly business newsletter for journalists, authors, and content creators.
Natasha has mentored over 1,000 writers, helping them break into dream publications and build six-figure careers. She is the author of Shut Up and Write: The No-Nonsense, No B.S. Guide to Getting Words on the Page and several other books.
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