I’ve been thinking a lot about bravery lately—what it means and how to have more of it. Usually we reserve the word “brave” for firefighters and soldiers, for people putting their lives on the line. And there’s no question that the word is most apropos when used in that context.
But life requires bravery too—just getting through the ups and downs every day, showing up, trying to be your best no matter what comes at you.
Writing, however, requires a bravery all its own. To be a writer is to court rejection and disappointment. That may sound overstated, but it’s true. In other areas of our lives, we can shun feedback. Don’t like the way I’m raising my children? Well, it’s none of your business, so you can keep your opinion to yourself. You think I have no fashion sense or my jokes aren’t funny? Well, you might mention it to your friends later, but unless you’re a total jerk, you’re not likely to share your thoughts with me.
But in order to be a successful writer, you have to do exactly the opposite. There is no avoiding feedback. You have to put yourself out there knowing that you’ll get plenty of “not for me” responses and not everyone will connect with your writing. Sure that’s true of the rest of our lives too. We know that not everyone likes us. In theory. But we don’t go around asking about it. (“Tell me the truth, do you find me a tad bit annoying?”)
Once you send off those first queries though, you’re asking for an honest response to your work. And those responses will arrive in your inbox without regard to how you’re feeling that day. Unfortunately, most of them will be rejections. That’s incredibly brave.
Whenever my father-in-law hears someone talk about the woes of aging, he always says, “Well, it’s better than the alternative.” And it’s true. Aging is better than the alternative of dying young. And suffering through rejection is better than never reaching your dreams because you were too scared to try.
Chris Dixon says if you aren’t getting rejected on a daily basis, your goals aren’t ambitious enough. I agree with him. (Well, maybe not the daily part, but I mostly agree with him.) So go write (or paint, or sing, or start a business.) Do the best work you can and then flirt with rejection until you find success.