Chatting with Randy Ingermanson: Rejection & the Writer

I’m grateful to host my good friend Randy Ingermanson here. We had a long skype chat about publishing in the aftermath of my publishing The 11 Secrets of Getting Published. What follows is our banter. Today? We’re talking about the big hairy word, rejection. Ouch!

RI: One of the main sections of your e-book is about overcoming fear
and rejection. That sounds a little like, “Don’t think about pink
elephants.” You can’t do that by thinking about it. So how do you do
it?

MD: As I said earlier, rejection is a sign of growth. If you’re not
submitting, you won’t be rejected. But if you are submitting, you
will be.

RI: Well, aren’t you Miss Sunshine today?

MD: You have to settle your own issues of personal worth as you head
into publishing or those rejections will mess with your mind.

RI: Expand on that personal worth thing. That’s something I wrestle
about. Personal worth for me is tied to achievement.

MD: Well, if I believe that publishing is the validation of my life,
if I’m rejected, suddenly I have no validation. But if I realize my
worth isn’t what I do but who I am, I can learn to weather rejection.
It doesn’t have to devastate me.

RI: So if I haven’t achieved anything yet, what’s my personal worth?

MD: Yeah, I’m exactly the same way. I think this journey has been
placed in front of me so that I’ll learn the important lesson that I
am much more than what I produce and achieve. Ah, Randy. All of us
here would heartily agree that you’re worth your weight in gold (to
use a cliche).

RI: It seems like there are two mistakes to make though. The other
error is the whole “self esteem” thing. So everybody gets a trophy,
whether they did anything or not. It seems like we have to strike a
balance.

MD: Yeah, and that’s what self publishing has done to publishing. I
will run into people who have basically sent a Word file to a company
and had it “published” with 100 typos and they feel like they’re
published. Without any sweat or effort. Makes me a little crabby.

RI: I see a lot of writers with a misguided belief that just because
they typed a story, it’s going to be a bestseller, just cuz. “Because
I’m the center of the universe.” Well, they’ve certainly published,
but not necessarily anything worth reading.

MD: Yeah, and I’m here to say that is truly not the reality. Everyone
needs to grow. Not everyone can write a bestseller. You can even
write award winning books and not sell.

RI: But let’s get back to that self-worth thing. We need it in order
to handle rejection. But if we have an exaggerated self-worth, then
we ignore the very real critiques of our work that would force us to
grow.

MD: Yes. You have to settle your calling. That’s what helps me
weather the ups and downs of publishing. I know-know-know that I am
gifted to write. That I’m supposed to write. Because of that settled
knowledge, when I’m rejected, I can dust myself off and keep at it.

RI: How do you develop a realistic self-worth that will get you
through the hard times without being crushed? What I mean is, how do
you “know” that?

MD: Yes, there is no place for stuck up writers who are unteachable.
That’s a good question about knowing. For me it’s been looking back
over my life and seeing all the input I’ve received over the years.
Folks told me I could write when I wrote Christmas letters. My
teachers saw the gift. And, yes, mentors have helped me hone the gift
and encouraged me to continue.

RI: Maybe it comes down to a trusted editor or coach or friend? I
critique a lot of writers at conferences. What I notice is that most
of them either think too highly of their own work or else too poorly.
Very few have an accurate idea of how well they write.

MD: And I find when I meet someone who has a balanced perspective,
he/she is most likely the person who will be published. We must be
teachable, yet confident in our calling to write.

RI: Right, I was just thinking of Jim Rubart, whom I met a few years
ago at a conference.  I think he knew he had the goods, but he also
knew that he needed some guidance. What I saw right away was that he
was very well balanced.

MD: He’s a good example. And then he published a bestselling book
with B & H publishing! But it took several years. That balance is a
rare thing. He paid his dues. Learned the craft. And eventually
published. He also is a marketer, so I think that helped too.

RI: I think most writers I run into suffer from the “I am dirt”
mentality. But the ones in the most trouble are the “I am gold; kneel
before me” writers. You can’t tell them anything.

MD: Note to writers who think they are dirt: You’re not. Rest there.
Learn now, be teachable, and keep at it. True.

RI: I’ve only seen a very few writers who really were horribly bad
writers. And oddly enough, I think all of them thought they were
spectacular.

MD: I’ve seen a few. Yes, they thought they were awesome.

RI: I’d much rather coach an “I am dirt” writer. They can be taught,
usually. Do you ever suffer from those feelings that your writing
totally sucks and that you’re a fraud?

MD: Totally. Every time I hand in a manuscript, I panic. That
happened recently. I wrote a book that I thought was schlock and that
I’d surely be found out.

RI: Yeah, you get that horrible feeling that “This book is the train
wreck which will expose me for the fraud I’ve always been.”

MD: I was very surprised when the editor emailed me praising the
book, calling it a classic. Absolutely floored me. Yes, I think we
all think that way. I wrote an article once about that for Writers
Digest about how inspiration doesn’t always mean the prose is good
. Nor does
perspiration mean it’s bad. Often the best prose comes when we push
our way through, painful word by painful word.

RI: Gack, that sounds . . . painful. So what’s the bottom line here
for writers? On the fear and rejection thing?

MD: Perspire until the inspiration comes. Not visa versa. On fear and
rejection: it will come, but don’t wallow there. You have to be a
bootstrap writer.

RI: I just had an insight. Maybe the best way to deal with fear and
rejection is to know that other writers also have fears and hate
rejection. Real writers. Published writers.

RI: Award-winning authors. Best-selling authors.

MD: Yes, we’re in community. And honestly, when I suffer from a big
rejection, I go to my writer friends and ask them for advice. Usually
I get encouragement back. And that makes me want to keep at it.

RI: So maybe the real answer isn’t “Suck it up.” Maybe the real
answer is “Misery loves company.”

MD: True. The best thing you can do as a writer is form a community
of like minded writers around you.

RI: A topic for another day. I just wrote a column on that in the
June issue of my e-zine. In any event, we’ve talked just a little
about one of the 11 topics you cover in your new e-book, THE 11
SECRETS OF GETTING PUBLISHED
. This book is now available for $2.99 at
all the usual online retail outlets.

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