How Writers Can Stop Being Crushed by Fear of Rejection

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.

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39 comments on “How Writers Can Stop Being Crushed by Fear of Rejection
  1. 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.
    Dr Ian McCormick recently posted…Designing a Critical Scorecard: the Poetry League TableMy Profile

  2. J. Hart says:

    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 โ€œnoโ€ 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 says:

    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

  4. “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!
    D Kendra Francesco recently posted…Finding Your Niche Part 2My Profile

  5. I was a bit skeptical when I saw pop up in your e-mail newsletter, but I thought, “What the heck” and clicked through.

    Before I started reading, I was feeling smug, aggravated and perturbed that this post was going to be another one of those, “I just started thinking about all the positive things in my life like rainbows and puppies and everything worked out” kind of posts. Instead I was delightfully refreshed and invigorated to discover Jia’s out of this world idea for facing his fears. Bravo Jia!

    As for Jackie, what can I say other than Krispy Kreme should make this video a part of their training for all store managers and employees.
    Colleen Conger recently posted…How to Find Free Images That Wonโ€™t Ruin Your Own ImageMy Profile

  6. Jim Kim says:

    I love Jia’s blog and his story!

    He has inspired me in my own entrepreneurial path to keep pushing forward, and there is no such thing as failure of there is a lesson gained.

    Great article, and I really appreciate this site which helps me, well…make a living from writing!
    Jim Kim recently posted…3 legitimate websites that will pay you money to write blog posts – Freelance blogging can be a good opportunity to earn a nice income while helping businesses worldwide with quality Web content. Here are three freelance writing websites I use to make money from blogging.My Profile

  7. This guy is awesome! Goes to show that amazing things can happen when you put yourself out there. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I deal with rejection the same way Jeff Goins does: by saying thank you. Thanks for the feedback, thank you for teaching me this lesson, and thanks for giving me an answer. I can move on now.

  8. Jessica says:

    This is a great post! Can’t believe I hadn’t heard of Jia before, but I’ll definitely follow his work now.

    I don’t know, but maybe we need a new Den forum thread — something along the lines of “Relish in your rejection.” ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Karen says:

    This is an amazing story. It reminds me of something a very wise and entrepreneurial friend of mine (who started her own magazine) has told me time and time again: ‘You don’t get what you don’t ask for’. Such simple words to live by!

  10. Thanks for this post Carol, I’ve never heard Jia so it’s fun to hear this.

    I have to say I’ve followed Jia’s plan many times. When starting to psych myself out about rejection I stop, catch myself and think “So if they so know it won’t kill me.” It was something one of my old J-School professors taught me in college. I even catch myself procrastinating, only to turn myself around and say, Do it NOW!

    I’m going to save this and use it for some of my clients. Many have been rejected many times and are downtrodden. Perhaps this will enlighten them to get going again regardless of the outcome of their efforts.

    Mary Kay Ash always told her clients that “Success is learning to fail forward.” She was right.

  11. Sue Campbell says:

    This is fantastic, Carol. And much in line with my own experience, when I put myself out there, it pays off in ways I didn’t even expect.

    And I am SO going to the World Domination Summit next year.

    • Carol Tice says:

      It’s a very unique event, I must say! I don’t know if I would do again as big crowds aren’t my favorite thing…but I love how Chris does it and brings people together. I had a chance to meet Darren Rowse, Pam Slim, Jeff Goins, and Leo Babauta all at once, so that was sort of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

      And he throws a great party…was part of a 400-person Bollywood dance flashmob for a couple hours there at the end…sooooo fun!

      Many people who go seem to be struggling in their personal lives and looking for something uplifting, not even thinking about business…it’s an interesting mix of people who go.

  12. I think this is a fascinating experiment and who knew it would turn out to be the best thing he ever did! Amazing stuff. It’s given me the impetus to knock off those emails I’ve been slightly nervous about as I know I am taking a chance – but what the heck – after reading this I’ve sent them!
    Deevra Norling recently posted…A few quotes to help cope with changeMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      I think there are so many stories like this, of people who when they hit rock bottom, finally bust an audacious move to do something truly unique that they’re passionate about…and boom. Mega-success.

      The question is, what passion project could each of us launch that would uplift the world in this way? It would probably bring us personal success as well.

  13. Cheryl Bryan says:

    I loved this! Thanks for letting us know about Jia and his courageous experiment.

    And what a good example of customer service Jackie is! I think it also shows that no matter what your request, it helps to realize you’re dealing with a real live person, not just a title. Kudos to her manager, too.
    Cheryl Bryan recently posted…The Most Common Misplaced ModifierMy Profile

  14. Tom Bentley says:

    Carol, it was great to see Jia profiled in your post. I talked to him for a while a bit back on working with him to develop his book ideaโ€”he’s a great guy. Rejection is integral to the writing process, and often his little to do with the quality of the work. The publication might have run something on your topic just a month or two ago, it’s not quite right for their audience, it doesn’t fit the editorial calendar and on….

    Just this morning I had a multiple email exchange with a magazine editor about a possible article that wasn’t quite right for him. I was honestly appreciative that he’d responded promptly, and had taken a secondary pitch into consideration as well. There was no rejection sting at all; it was simply “thanks and move on,” as Mr. Goins suggested. I’ve had pitches rejected a zillion times, but I’m thick-skinned now: I just move on. And many rejected pitches have found a home elsewhere.
    Tom Bentley recently posted…First-Chapter Fiddling: Yea or Nay?My Profile

  15. 18-years ago I decided to write a book about Locksmithing. Everyone said I was crazy and delusional. After all, I didn’t have so much as a poem written – much less published. But I went out and bought the “Writer’s Market” and learned how to write a book proposal. I then sent in to McGraw-Hill Publishing Co., a not-so-very-good book proposal, and laughed about it. I figured, why not go straight to the top?

    Guess what? 1-month later I got a letter congratulating me on being awarded a publishing contract. “Locksmithing: From Apprentice To Master” has been selling for 18-years now from which I still get 2-royalty checks a year.

    It taught me that sometimes, the impossible is possible, and sometimes the experts and naysayers are wrong.

    So don’t be afraid of rejection…it’ll only keep you down!
    Joseph Rathjen recently posted…Social Progression:Whoโ€™s Balancing The Scales?My Profile

  16. Erica says:

    How amazing! I’ve never heard of Jia before, but now I think I’m going to follow his example and give that rejection therapy a try.

    For the most part, I’m pretty comfortable with professional rejection. What I’ve found works best is take in the good feedback, learn from the negative feedback, decide what works best and move on to the next shiny object. “Moving on” being key because taking action reduces the feeling of powerlessness that often stems from rejection.
    Erica recently posted…Rekindling the fireMy Profile

  17. rob says:

    My mantra is, “When ya ain’t got nothin’ ya got nothin’ to lose.” Works every time.
    rob recently posted…Expats and EthnocentrismMy Profile

  18. Julie says:

    What a novel idea! I have never heard of this guy until this posting, but I think he had an amazing and innovative take on how to handle rejection. I’ve struggled with rejection and had to come to realize it is a chance for me to develop and grow, so I don’t take it personally. It bugs me-sure but the best therapy is to pick myself up, evaluate what I could do better and move on. I wish I had realized this when I first started writing. I applaud Jia for taking rejection and turning it into inspiration.

  19. Rohi Shetty says:

    Hi, Carol, thanks for this inspiring post.

    I often don’t even express my ideas because I feel they will be rejected, especially with my family.

    It’s lack of hope rather than lack of courage.

    I think I’ll follow Jia’s example and set myself up for rejection. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Rohi Shetty recently posted…Let Humor Accompany You Like The Shadow That Never LeavesMy Profile

  20. Pssh. I could deal with “no.” It’s the radio silence I get, even when following up two or three times, that crushes my spirit.

    • Carol Tice says:

      So stop waiting around listening to that silence! When I pitch, I don’t follow up and move on immediately to the next pitch. I assume they’ll get in touch if they’re interested. The end.

      Sounds like you’re spending too much time wishing and hoping you’d hear a ‘yes’ from a market that isn’t going to give it. Save time and keep on truckin’…as I like to say, be a writer, not a waiter.

      • Ah – thanks for that Carol! ๐Ÿ™‚ I pitched a newspaper last week and haven’t had a reply. I was wondering if I should send a follow-up email or just move on as no answer is an answer. I love how you put it “be a writer, not a waiter!” Love it! ๐Ÿ™‚
        Deevra Norling recently posted…A few quotes to help cope with changeMy Profile

  21. Wow. This is great! Since rejection is something ALL writers are going to have to deal with, we all have to learn how. Thanks for this post!
    Jessica Flory recently posted…How to Make the Most of Your Writing Group, and How it Can Ruin Your StoryMy Profile

  22. Lindsay Wilson says:

    This is fabulous. What an inspiring guy. And all of the success is from PR for a project to conquer rejection? We all should try it. It sounds like you meet some pretty awesome people in the process, too.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Yeah, I gather Jackie the Krispy Kreme manager is like a celebrity in her company now, and Jia lobbied that she should get a raise.

      • This is a wonderful post, Carol! It must have been so uplifting (and mind bending) to hear Jia’s talk. I loved the fact that Jackie took the bull by the horns and rose to the challenge–there was more than one lesson in this video. Very uplifting all the way around. Thanks for sharing!!

  23. Amel says:

    It is cool that you got to see one of Jia’s talks. I have been following his blog since the start of his rejection therapy and have actually been preparing a series of posts for my own blog on all the insights his project contains for freelance writers.

    The bottom line is: Getting rejected is good–and if you’re not taking the risk of getting rejected, then you are not allowing your ideas to reach enough people.

    And the really neat thing is that it is actually harder to get rejected than one might expect.
    Amel recently posted…Rejection Therapy for WritersMy Profile

    • Carol Tice says:

      Jia brought down the house, Amel — one of the biggest ovations anybody got. I think his message of facing down fears and putting yourself out there anyway really resonates with so many.

      And as Jia’s journey shows, you might expect rejection but find something else, if you risk it.

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  1. Rejection says:

    […] “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.” — Carol Tice […]

  2. […] them anyway. If youโ€™re afraid of failure, write anyway. If youโ€™re afraid of rejection, read this article and learn about how one man deliberately faced rejection […]