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Ten ways to cope with disappointment and criticism …

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If you are going to succeed in any business – particularly in the writing industry – you need to be able to find ways of coping with disappointment and criticism. Here we outline some ways to bounce back and carry on …happy face

Everyone has disappointments

Never make the mistake of looking at someone else – a fellow author for example who’s recently had a book published when you haven’t – and thinking it has been easy for them. Whatever you read about that person – and some people are not as honest as others about what they’ve been through – they will have had disappointments. And even when things seem to be going fabulously, they will have disappointments in future. For example, the author whose book has just been published now has the worry about how well it will sell … and if your debut novel sells, you have the pressure of following it up with another great book. Nothing is as simple as it seems!

Avoid unnecessary criticism

Writing, in particular, is a very personal thing. If you are a blogger, your blog and the way you write is personal to you – it is who you are. Realise that not everyone will like the way you present your blog or writing – you can’t please everyone. Avoid going to amateur writing groups where you put yourself in a situation of being criticised by your peers. There are no ‘rules’ and no rights and wrongs to writing a blog, or a book for example. In fact the way you do it – differently from others -might be the very thing that makes you more successful in the end.

But accept criticism when it’s necessary

If you are writing professionally – ie you are a writer commissioned to do a paid piece for a publication – you need to provide what the editor asks for. In this case, any criticism needs to be taken on board without question so you can provide what’s required. One of the main issues that stops amateur writers becoming professional ones is their reluctance to write as they are asked. If you want to be paid for writing, you need to take on board how someone else wants you to write without questions.

Use disappointment to make you stronger

There is no doubt disappointment and setbacks can be used to make you stronger. If your book isn’t bought by a publisher after all, if you are not picked as blogger of the year or your article doesn’t make the paper after all, allow yourself to feel sad but then put it behind you. Pick yourself up and carry on – if you keep plugging away the next time you have the chance of being successful.

Remain open minded

It’s easy to respond defensively to professional criticism (rather than that from a fellow blogging ‘friend’ or amateur writing group.) But always ask yourself if that criticism could be right. Try to distance yourself from feeling hurt and instead look objectively at your own writing. There is always room for all of us to improve and it’s those who are able to learn from their mistakes that tend to be the most successful. Knowing what criticism to take on board and what to reject can be hard. One of the issues is criticism, particularly in the world of writing, is often subjective. There are many examples where authors have had books turned down by agents only to be take on by one – and they’ve then become a bestseller. Along the way other those agents who turned them down might have given well meaning advice about things they could change with their book – it might be they took that advice and it worked. Or it might be they stuck to their guns and someone else loved it. This is why you should always listen to criticism – but not necessarily act on it.

Put disappointments in perspective

You might not have got the job, you might not have won an award – but it isn’t the end of the world. Reminding yourself about the good things in your life can help put a crushing upset into some sort of perspective.

Take time to grieve for the upset

I purposely used the word ‘grieve’ here because if you have striven for something for a long time, then the grief you feel when things don’t turn out can seem overwhelming. For some people going for a run, taking some days off, talking about what happened with others can all help.

Plan something else

One way of overcoming a disappointment is to have something else to look forward to. Pick yourself up and apply for another award, send your novel to another publisher. Look at what you did to see if you can improve and when you have tweaked your approach, persevere with your original goal. It’s those who keep going who eventually get there. If you give up now you won’t ever reach that goal of getting the book published, winning that award or commission.

Live in the present

Don’t dwell on past disappointments or ‘failures’ and don’t dwell on criticism either. It’s natural for it to knock your confidence but try to put a positive spin on what’s happened. You can learn from this, from what went on and use it to do better in future. Try to see it as one of those things, a blip that has happened and concentrate on the bigger picture. You only have to look at sportsmen and women who get injuries, fail to win at an event but then keep plugging away only to emerge triumphant. A set back, however disappointing, does not mean you cannot pursue your original goal.

Grow a thicker skin

Professionals do not let setbacks affect them at all. They realise that setbacks, disappointment, criticism from people who don’t think as you do, are all part and parcel of business, especially in the writing business. Learn to switch off completely. Leave your computer or desk and leave the issues and the disappointments behind. And remember the tougher the journey, the more experienced you will be when you arrive at your destination.

Do you have any tips for coping with criticism and disappointment? Let us know below…

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Alison Smith-Squire

Alison Smith-Squire is a writer, journalist and media agent selling exclusive real life stories to newspapers, magazines and TV. She owns the sell my story website Featureworld.co.uk, which was set up to help ordinary people sell their stories to the press.

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