Monday, April 9, 2018

The Paralyzing Fear of Rejection (Jenny O'Connell)

There are people who are energized by rejection, the ones who look rejection in the face and become even more determined to succeed and prove people wrong. Rejection  becomes the fuel that keeps them moving forward, the catalyst needed to be even more determined to succeed and flip naysayers the bird.

Yeah, I'm not one of those people. I'm more like the other type of person. The one who avoids rejection (and the unsettling doubt and confirmation of fear of failure that accompanies it). It's a fear of rejection that has made my latest project a loooooooonnnnnnggggg time coming. Because I'm writing a sequel, and that means that it will no doubt be compared to the book that came before it. Why is that so bad? Well, let's look at some of the blog comments I've received from readers in the past (gulp) three years since announcing that there would be a sequel:

  • Please upload another excerpt…you’ve kept fans waiting for ages for this book that i think one is LONG OVERDUE!
  • It’s 2017 and once again no update and no book, #hopeless #reallyannoyed #dissapointed
  • So, when the date of launch this book? Please let me know.
And those are the kind ones (not the ones that pretty much say "WTF! Where's the sequel, you lazy, untalented, useless writer who can't even finish a freaking book!" - at least that's what I hear).


I've been so afraid of disappointing readers who enjoyed the first book, the ones who want to know what happens next to the characters, that it paralyzed me. I couldn't type a word without questioning if it was good or not. Because the thing is, rejection happens every day in life. There are the BIG rejections (not being admitted to a college, for example) and the not so big (you think someone is going to let you merge into their lane and they nudge you out without so much as an apologetic wave). But as writers who publish books, our rejections are BIG and PUBLIC and THERE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE FOREVER! For the elation of every 5 star reader review on Amazon there's the self doubt and mortification that comes from a 3 star "meh" from a reader. And it never goes away! Years later everyone can still see how you failed just by googling your name.

The thing is, I know that not everyone loves every book, and that doesn't mean the book sucks. I have read books that are best sellers, critical darlings, favorites of my best friends, and I couldn't make it past chapter three. To each his own, I always tell myself - except when it hits too close to home. Then it's personal. It's one of the reasons I don't review books on public sites anymore unless I love them. I just don't think the world needs more critics, and writers who put their heart and soul into pouring words on a page certainly don't need my two cents. I have my opinion and I'll share it if asked, but I don't need to have my indelible words out there to make a writer feel bad about their effort. I'm just one person.

So, back to rejection. At some point, you have a choice. You can let rejection paralyze you, or can... try really hard to accept that rejection is a part of the process and hopefully you take its lessons and move on. I've pushed through my fear and the sequel to The Book of Luke will be out in May. I'm still fearful of disappointing readers, of having them feel like the sequel doesn't do the first book justice and it is a waste of their reading time. I'm even afraid it will taint their positive experience of the first book. But I wrote it anyway. And I hope that the experience has taught me that rejection will be a part of life, and if people don't like it, there's always another book to write and another opportunity to get it right. I'll always wonder if I could have done it better if I spent more time on it, but I think three years is my limit. Time to get it out there and move on. Time to reject my fear of rejection.


The sequel to The Book of Luke, The Next Chapter of Luke, will be available in May. Please be nice :)

4 comments:

  1. CONGRATS on Luke, Jenny! Most of all, congrats on pushing through it and finishing the project. That in itself is an incredible accomplishment.

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  2. Jenny, I so agree about not going after other writers' work. (Yet am so thankful for GR reviews when I can't get past chapter three & am trying to figure out, say what!)

    I wish you every joy with your 'second' child!

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  3. Jenny, major kudos and pushing through all the fear and doing book 2!

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  4. Yay for pushing past the fear...and I hear ya, rejection can be paralyzing. I don't leave reviews unless I loved the book either.

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