Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Redistribution of Power

Post by Kerrie Flanagan
Featured on

On Saturday, my daughter auditioned for a local teen acting troupe. Before the auditions began the director talked with the students about what they could expect from the audition, when they would find out who made it and other bits of general information. But she ended with something that resonated with me and relates 100% to writers.

She explained that there were only a few openings in the troupe, so not everyone was going to make it. Then with heartfelt conviction she told those teens, "Don't ever base your self-worth as an actor on one audition. Do not give that power over to any director. It hasn't been earned and they don't deserve it."

When I left, I couldn't stop thinking about what she said. So many times as writers we wrap up our self-worth in every query letter or proposal we send out. Then we wait for the response and rather just look at is as just that, a response, we use it to gauge our worth and abilities as a writer. If an editor/agent says yes, then we must be a good writer. If we get a no, then we must not be any good.

That is too much power to hand over to editors/agents and frankly, I don't think they want it. The agents and editors are just doing their job, to make the best magazine, book or anthology possible. It is up to us to be confident in our own abilities as a writer. 

We have all heard those rejection letter examples from authors like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling and Dr. Seuss saying their writing wasn't any good. But what made these writers successful  is that they didn't let an editor's opinion stop them. They were confident in their writing and they kept going. We all need to do the same.

I was syndicated on BlogHer.comSurround yourself with other positive writers, take classes, go to conferences, join a good critique group, and improve your craft so when you do send out your writing, you can rest assured that you sent out your best work and regardless of the response back, you know that you are a good writer.

What do you think? Do we hand over our self-worth as writers to too many other people?



Patricia Stoltey said...

It's pretty hard for new writers submitting for the first time to feel powerful when faced with rejection after rejection. But the advice from the audition director is excellent. For another good (and humorous) post on this topic, read Rejection Wears Plaid at Chiseled in Rock.

Julie Hedlund said...

MOST excellent advice. I'm glad I acquired a great deal of career experience in other areas before focusing solely on writing. It toughened my skin, but also taught me this exact lesson. It's difficult to live by, but we must.

Trai said...

The way I tell my students to look at rejection is, "Good! Now get out of my way so I can go find that person who will appreciate what I do."

Kerrie said...

Thanks for your comments.
Pat, no one ever said this crazy writing business is easy. I always like to say I got a response from an editor, not a rejection. Because it is a response and that is much easier to swallow than rejection.
Trai, I like that phrase.

Michelle Mach said...

I've had many pieces not accepted the first time I sent them out that were accepted by the second or third places I submitted. Being persistent and not taking that first "no" is crucial!

Dean K Miller said...

Definitely do not ever give your personal power, self-esteem, whatever you want to call it, away to anyone...unless you want to.

I still have my first rejection letter from decades ago, long before I knew what little I know today. It reminds me of how much power I held, in creating something I felt good enough to send out.

There not accepting it (on very sound reasons) did nothing but ensure that I would continue on. Finding out what doesn't work leads to you closer to that which does.

It is hard to trust words such as those from your daughter's director, as we want so desparetly to "make the grade."

Maybe in deciding for ourselves what "making the grade" means, we can free ourselves from the judgement of others, and appreciate what we, as individuals, are able to do?

Heidi Windmiller said...

Great advice!

I've made an effort to surround myself in the positive. I do find it hard sometimes when blogging. There are a few agent/writer blogs that I tend to avoid because of the negativity. One reason I appreciate the Writing Bug is because it is so positive!

Kerrie said...

I love this Dean, "Maybe in deciding for ourselves what "making the grade" means, we can free ourselves from the judgement of others, and appreciate what we, as individuals, are able to do"

Heidi, thanks for your nice comment about The Writing Bug.

April Moore said...

Great advice! It's hard not to get down when receiving another rejection letter, but each one makes me work harder and improve my writing. And I agree with Heidi--I avoid some agent and writer blogs because they can be so negative and that the Writing Bug is nothing like that--thanks, Kerrie!

Chuck said...

Tough to take rejection sometimes. It's a good thing there are those out there willing to give you a kick in the butt every once in a while and keep you going. Thanks for all you do Kerrie.

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