How Writers Can Stop Being Crushed by Fear of Rejection

Carol Tice

Jia Jiang

Jia Jiang

Being a freelance writer means dealing with rejection.

A novelist is free to sit in a garret and spin their tales for years on end without fear of negative feedback, but freelancers have to put it out there day after day and hear “no” again and again.

How can you bear it? How do you keep it from killing your soul, from growing discouraged, from giving up?

This past weekend at World Domination Summit, I met someone with an inspiring answer.

His name is Jia Jiang. As a teen in China, he met Bill Gates and was inspired to come to the U.S. to study, live, and work.

A year ago, he quit a successful corporate job to chase his dream of entrepreneurship. But when a key funder for his startup pulled out at the last minute, he was devastated.

He hated the feeling of intense pain this rejection gave him. He decided he needed to conquer this feeling.

And that’s when Jia’s fortunes started to change.

Begging for rejection

He embarked on a project to toughen himself up by repeatedly experiencing rejection. He called it 100 Days of Rejection Therapy. His plan: To make outlandish requests sure to result in rejection each day for three months. The repeated rejections would surely diminish the pain he felt at rejection in the future, as he struggled to build his startup.

So he began to ask crazy things of total strangers. Would you let me drive your police car, Mr. Policeman?

Could I make the safety announcement on a Southwest Airlines flight?

Could I play soccer in your back yard?

Would you make me a set of Krispy Kreme doughnuts that look like the Olympic rings, in the next 15 minutes?

As you’ll see in the video below, Jia’s experiment had unexpected results:

Contrary to what he expected, many of the people he asked for rejection refused to give it. Instead, they said yes to his odd requests. And people were uplifted and thrilled and drawn into his quest to conquer rejection pain — more than 5 million have watched that video above on YouTube.

It’s an intriguing idea. What if you asked for the impossible, and some of the people simply said yes?

If you dared to ask, anything could happen. Your whole life could change.

From washout to celebrity

As word of his project spread, Jia became a popular public speaker, hitting TEDx, and finally speaking to a mob of 3,000 at World Domination. He received a standing ovation. You can bet a book is next.

This week, he was on LinkedIn’s writer groups asking whether he should self-publish his story or go for one of the traditional publishing offers he’s getting. His biggest problem isn’t how he’s going to scrape by anymore — it’s how to best capitalize on his success.

Jia dared to confront his worst fears, and in that act of courage, found the seed of his success. I think that is true for all of us.

Stare down your fears, and you will transform your soul. And what you need in life will be yours.

Feeling grateful for a “no”

At another World Domination event, I got to meet another blogger I’ve long admired, Jeff Goins. In his session, when asked how he deals with rejection as a writer, Jeff said, “Say thank you for rejection, and then move on.”

Why? Rejection helps us learn. Rejection tells us this is not the door we will open today. We need to press on to find other opportunities.

Rather than fighting rejection, if you simply and quickly accept that answer, it means you can move on faster. You can spend less time dwelling on that negativity, and move forward.

If you can seek rejection and accept it without fear, the world is yours. Jia proved it.

How do you cope with rejection? Leave a comment and tell us your approach.

39 Comments

  1. Dr Ian McCormick

    It is clear that the odds are always against publicaton unless you have great talent and a supportive agent. Sadly, editors and publishers no longer have time to offer constructive or critical feedback. In my view, it’s worth joining a writer’s group or online forum in order to share your work and enjoy/learn from readers’ or listeners’ responses.

  2. J. Hart

    Just as a quick point of clarification:

    “A novelist is free to sit in a garret and spin their tales for years on end without fear of negative feedback, but freelancers have to put it out there day after day and hear “no” again and again.”

    That’s actually a serious concern for novelists! You can spend months, perhaps years on a novel that will never see the light of day, and the way acceptance rates are with traditional publication, it’s a slim chance your first attempt will be successful.

    But that only reinforces my opinion on handling rejection. I firmly believe that it’s not the rejection you have to deal with, but rather your attitude about why you’re even doing this. Whether it’s novel writing, freelancing or blog posts, I firmly believe that you should never write to be successful; that’s putting the cart before the horse. Let the success come after the words.

    You should write because you cannot possibly think of doing anything else. Because writing will keep you up at night. Because your book, your article or your blog won’t leave you alone until you’ve scratched that itch. If you feel so compelled to write that you’re willing to forego happy hours, movie dates and weekend trips to spend the in-between morning hours putting your words to paper or the screen, then rejection becomes meaningless. You’ll simply write some more because you must. Your words will find a home as long as you keep sending them out, but it must always start with those late nights with your thoughts as your only company.

  3. Jia Jiang

    Carol and everyone,

    Thank you for the great articles both here and at Forbes. It was my honor to meet these amazing bloggers and writers at WDS and share my story. As a fellow entrepreneur, I found it incredible how similar our stories are. We are dictated by both ambition and fear at the same time.

    After devising a game with rejection, I found rejection is nothing more than people’s opinion and preferences, and that’s why I don’t take it personally anymore.

    Feel free to chat with me at jia at entresting.com.

    Jia

    • Carol Tice

      Thanks for dropping by, Jia! Great to see you here. I know your message resonates with so many readers.

  4. D Kendra Francesco

    “When the student is ready…”

    This is one of the most timely things I’ve seen in a long time. I woke up this morning, plan in hand to work on nothing but approaching clients today – and almost immediately crumpled into a shivering ball of fear. Even writing a journal entry to explore “why” didn’t help.

    Now, after seeing this, I’m going to get business-dressed and go approach ONE person about my writing services. I’ve met the person before (at the garage sale she was holding). I have her business card. If she says “no” that’s fine. At least I got out of the house and approached someone. If she says “yes” that’s terrific! Again, it will be because I got out of the house.

    Later!

    • Carol Tice

      Go get ’em, D’Kendra! One at a time…and one day at a time.

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