"I have become accustomed to rejection."
These words used to greet you when you arrived on writer Roxane Gay's website. If you google the phrase, her website is still the first result.
It seems ironic now. Gay is a New York Times bestselling author who has written five books (six+ if you count her World of Wakanda comics for Marvel) along with numerous fiction and non-fiction pieces.
I mean go to her website. Her writing has been published over and over again. And it's good. Really good.
And yet, Gay titled her blog this way for a reason. Before Gay was a known name, she received her fair share of rejections. And she still does.
As this Bustle article suggests, most creatives deal with rejection. A lot of rejection.
This is part what makes creating art so difficult.
Not only do you need determination and talent to create, but you also have to go through the process of sending your work out in the world. And then hoping against hope someone else considers it worthy of being published/bought/listened to/admired.
It is an incredibly daunting prospect. I mean to me personally, it is an incredibly daunting prospect.
I have spent a long time being afraid of rejection. It has kept me from writing. It has kept me from sending my writing out to publications. It has made me afraid to try new things, like say, starting my own business.
Before I went live with theVintageModernshop.com, I wasn't sleeping well. I was waking up with backaches.
I blamed my old mattress. So I ordered a new one because I am the type of person who doesn’t function well without a full night’s sleep. But the mattress was never really the problem.
I wasn’t sleeping because I was scared and stressed out.
I was scared I wasn’t going to be able to get everything ready in time. I was scared my website wouldn’t turn out well. I was scared no one would buy anything from me.
But mostly, I was scared of putting myself out there and being rejected by the world.
But I despite all this fear, I did it anyway.
Last week, Gay read from her new memoir, Hunger, at Magers & Quinn Booksellers. In addition to reading excerpts from the book, she also answered questions from the audience.
A woman asked her about how, as a shy person, she has the confidence to put out such personal material and risk being rejected.
Gay replied, "I don't wait for confidence. I just do it anyway."
It is good advice. And obviously, it has worked out for Gay.
I certainly didn’t feel confident when I launched the shop. I still don’t.
But that's the point. What really matters is your willingness to make yourself vulnerable.
You must look past the fear and risk being rejected.
Write the story. Paint that canvas. Create a business plan.
Your first few stories/paintings/end tables may not turn out. That’s okay.
I painted some end tables hot pink a few years ago. The tables looked amazing, but when you tried to set anything down, that item stuck to the top of the table. (Pro-tip: Don’t paint outside when it’s super humid. Your paint won’t set correctly, and you will have a sticky table top situation.)
So I learned how much humidity affects drying paint. And I have not repeated that mistake since.
Still feeling afraid? Follow Gay’s advice: do it anyway.
Make some mistakes! Get rejected! And keep getting rejected! Getting rejected means you're taking risks because you know failing isn't the worst thing.
Nobody becomes a great writer overnight. Not even Roxane Gay.