We all have heard stories of authors getting dozens of rejection letters before their book was finally picked up. How can writers stay motivated in the face of so much uncertainty? Allison Carmen, author of THE GIFT OF MAYBE, which is published by Perigee, shares how embracing gratitude can help writers overcome fear and rejection.
My friend Stacey and I took a walk the other day to clear our heads after a morning of writing in solitude. Stacey had written a novel that she submitted to several publishers through her agent. So far all she had received back were rejections. Stacey confided that she felt terrible that people did not seem to be appreciating her work and said she was starting to lose hope about her writing career. Those of us who are writers know this feeling. We write something that for us is so moving for us and yet we can’t get an agent, a book deal or even a blog post in an online magazine.
Like Stacey, I also experienced years of rejection from publishers. After a five-year journey working on a book that grew out of my business and life-coaching practice in which I counsel people on how to live gracefully with uncertainty, I ended up self-publishing. Eventually, I sold my book, THE GIFT OF MAYBE, to Perigee, an imprint of Penguin Random House. Even the moment when I found out a mainstream publisher wanted my book, which should have been filled with complete joy, was tempered when my agent told me that if I don’t sell at least 25,000 copies she might not be able to get me another book deal in the future! As Stacey and I were talking, we agreed on one thing. It seems that no matter where we “arrive” as writers, there is always another hurdle to overcome.
So how can we writers be joyful and not constantly on an emotional roller-coaster based on whether we sell our work or get approval from others? For me, the remedy has been gratitude and the very thing that led me to become a writer in the first place—the mindset of Maybe.
The first thing I did each and every morning during the five years I was working to complete my book and get it published was to wake up and go to sleep with a list of what I was grateful for in my life. The list included my health, my family and friends and also the simple gift of being able to write and express myself. I noticed that I experienced more joy and fulfillment every day with my writing when I focused more on my creativity and expression and less on what other people thought about what I produced.
The practice of gratitude saved me from getting lost each day in everything that was not happening in my life, especially not having a book deal or a popular blog. It’s not that I let go of wanting to achieve my goal of getting published—far from it. It was just a matter of allowing my gratitude to grant me perspective on what was important and what I did have. In my gratitude practice, I constantly realized that writing is a gift in my life and being able to express myself was important to me regardless of who read my work or how many people might buy my book. I can honestly say now that even if my book had never been published, I would do it all again just for the wonderful journey and the hours I spent cultivating my creativity and deepest thoughts.
During this time, I also worked to embrace the mantra “Maybe,” the very idea I was trying to convey in my book. Maybe helped dissipate the fear I had about my work not being valuable. Maybe it was! Maybe everything that was happening in my writing career was good, Maybe it would get better or Maybe I could accept all of my rejections and still write and just enjoy the journey. Maybe helped me remember that other possibilities are always arising even if I can’t see them in the moment. Out of this practice, I realized I was not doomed if one publisher, magazine or agent rejected me. Maybe, I told myself, something else would happen down the road, something even better. I allowed myself to think that Maybe everything was exactly where it needed to be in the moment. This gave me peace of mind, hope and courage to continue on my journey each and every day.
I hope you, too, are able to embrace gratitude in your everyday life as a writer and acknowledge the gift we all have to express ourselves and share our work, even if it’s with just one person. I also hope you’ll consider embracing the mindset of Maybe. Maybe helps bridge the gap between the fear of not being recognized and valued as a writer and the deeper joy of writing itself. Maybe can grant you the courage and confidence to continue the beautiful work that you do in the world. Paradoxically, with a Maybe mindset, we are able to let go and hold hope at the same time. This can open a path to achieve so much more in our lives than we ever imagined possible.
So, fellow writers, enjoy the journey. Maybe everything is okay just the way it is!
About Allison Carmen
Allison Carmen is a business consultant and life coach and the author of THE GIFT OF MAYBE, a book offering hope and possibility in uncertain times. On her blog, she writes about self-improvement, spirituality and parenting. Allison also is a blogger for Huffington Post and Psychology Today. You can find Allison on her website, Facebook, and Twitter.