To make money as a freelance writer you can’t just play offense (networking, learning how to pitch, improving your craft, finding new markets, negotiating). You also have to play defense. And that means developing something researchers have identified as crucial to financial success: a higher threshold for failure.
The eminent psychologist Dean Simonton, in his masterpiece On the Origins of Genius, investigated personality traits of highly successful creative types. What exactly made them successful? With all had talent, discipline, creativity and intelligence, why did some succeed and others fail?
It turns out that the most successful had a high threshold for failure. They owned a coping strategy for rejection. The unsuccessful tended to give up sooner, approaching their work with more fear and trepidation and, hence, could not raise their creativity to the level it needed to be.
What’s your coping strategy for rejections?
I realized I had to change after a series of painful rejections threatened to derail my writing career. So I studied up on the latest research on resiliency and interviewed a host of “grit” experts.
The centerpiece of my coping strategy, and the one I teach fellow writers, revolves around purpose. Why do you write? If it’s to see your name in lights, impress people you’ve never met, and have your calls answered by important muckity-mucks, you will have an ego-driven response to rejection. The kind that’ll send you into a vortex of despair and futility.
But if you write to help solve other people’s problems, shed light in darkened areas, and maybe ease someone’s burden with a little laughter, you have a purpose-driven response to rejection. The kind that leaves you empowered instead of gutted.
My friend, Lisa McLeod, a thought leader in performance, likes to ask her CEO clients this question: “Does your company have a purpose or does it just sell stuff?”
Lisa’s research shows that if, for example, a pharmaceutical company operates strictly out of revenue goals, it will generate x number of sales. If it emphasizes “purpose” (i.e. selling a drug that saves the life of a young mother so she can see her daughter grow up) then it will generate significantly more revenue than “x”.
Lisa’s work found that selling to achieve a noble purpose produces more income than selling to meet revenue goals. Why? Because you become more resilient, more hopeful, more resourceful, more determined to succeed with that loftier purpose.
I applied that to my writing and in a matter of months my income exploded, my hit rate increased, and I was in “high cotton” as they say in the south. The rejections didn’t stop (they never do), but now they don’t paralyze me.
Of course, operating out of your purpose rather than your ego isn’t the only thing needed to develop a coping strategy, but it’s a great place to start. They say the proof is in the pudding, but in this case, look in your wallet. A coping strategy for constant rejection is almost guaranteed to fatten it.
BIO: Michael Alvear is the author of The Bulletproof Writer: How to Overcome Constant Rejection to Become An Unstoppable Author (Woodpecker Media January 2017). http://writingforaliving.us/how-to-overcome-constant-rejection/ He’s been a frequent contributor to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and his work has appeared in Newsweek, The Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.