Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Cognitive Distortions: Dealing with Rejection Part 2

Welcome back,

Last week I started a 2-part series on cognitive distortions and how to apply them to the rejection process. Check out last Wednesday’s post for the first eight cognitive distortions. This week is the last seven.

Before I begin—a jump-starter. Cognitive distortions are automatic thoughts that seep into our minds and work to reinforce negative thought patterns. Distortions are not based on fact but rather expectations of negative outcomes. The fifteen cognitive distortions were developed by Aaron Beck and later popularized by David Burns.

Here we go with the second half.

9. Blaming – Blaming is the process by which we place responsibility for our pain on others or place the responsibility for all problems on ourselves.

“It’s all that stupid agent’s fault that the writing that I forgot to proofread got rejected.” “My agent proofread, but there were still spelling mistakes. I should have noticed. It’s all my fault.”

In either case, not helpful. As my mother tells me when I become unreasonable “Stop feeling sorry for yourself and fix the problem.” If you forgot to proofread, own it and proofread next time. It happens. Similarly, if your agent missed something, I’m only guessing here, but I assume your agent is human. And so are you. It happens.

Solution - Stop placing/taking the blame, fix the problem, and get the writing back out there.

10. Shoulds – Shoulds is when we develop a list of rules by which everyone (including ourselves) must behave—no exceptions.

“The publisher is supposed to take work that is well-written and in the genre they are looking for. That’s what I would do. My work fit the mold, but it got rejected.”

Sometimes it’s just not what they are looking for. Don’t take it personally. Also, don’t call up the publisher/lit mag/whoever and rant about how your work was what they were looking for. Don’t send them an e-mail doing this either. It will only make you feel guilty later, and guilt is not a healthy emotion.

Solution – Remember that rules are meant to be broken. Be open to the possibility that you would make decisions outside the expected mold if you had the power to do so.

11. Emotional Reasoning – Emotional reasoning takes place when we fall into the trap of thinking that how we feel is how we are.

“I feel like a bad writer. Therefore, I am a bad writer.”

Aside from “emotional reasoning” being an oxymoron, it makes no sense to think this way. Emotions fade and change over time. You may feel like a bad writer one minute but not the next. That in mind, try and sit there and tell yourself you’re a bad writer. You can’t because the feeling doesn’t last. Once the disappointment of the rejection letter passes, it’s back to the drawing board…Microsoft Word.

Solution – Remember that emotions are not logical and that they are temporary. (If deep negative emotions persist for several months, seek help. I’m not being funny. That is more than a cognitive distortion.)

12. Fallacy of Change – The Fallacy of change is when we expect people to change if we bug them enough.

“That publisher/agent will accept my writing if I just keep insisting that it’s good.”

If you are concerned about your writing, grab a critique partner. Otherwise, your writing might not be right for that publisher/agent. And no amount of badgering, insisting, bragging, begging, or coercing is going to change their minds. In fact, you’ll probably just irritate them to the point where they’ll ask you to go away.

Solution – “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Corny, yes, but it’s true. If the first publisher/agent doesn’t work out, move to the next one. Don’t continue to bother the old one. The next one could be the one.

13. Global Labeling – Global labeling occurs when we brand a person/situation negatively after one or two experiences.

“(Insert publisher/agent/whatever here) rejected my novel. They’re uncultured, unknowledgeable, deprived idiots.”

Um, down, girl. They might take your next piece. They might take your next ten pieces. They may have taken your best friend’s piece. They rejected one thing from you. It wasn’t what they were looking for. They’re not a terrible person/organization. Not surprisingly, global labeling is also referred to as “mislabeling.”

Solution – Deep breaths. It’s one rejection, and the person who did the rejecting isn’t evil.

14. Always Being Right – This is characterized by the constant feeling that we must prove ourselves correct.

“Listen, this manuscript is amazing. It is. Blood, sweat, and tears went into it, and it’s the best manuscript you could ever hope to publish.”

Bit of advice, don’t let this be you. Don’t be the person who makes that phone call/sends that e-mail. Publishers have a myriad of reasons for rejecting a manuscript. They also reject a ton every day. Don’t give them hell for it. They’re only doing their job. Move on to the next one.

Solution – This is going to sound harsh, I apologize, but as you read it, realize that someone said this to me once. It was a tough thing to hear, but I’m still in one piece.

You’re not always right. And the sooner you realize it, the better off you’ll be.

I know. It sounds mean, but I promise it’s not. It’s good, sound advice that’s helped me on more than one occasion.

15. Heaven's Reward Fallacy – Heaven’s reward fallacy is the expectation that our sacrifice will pay off.

“I’ve put ten years into this manuscript. Ten years of blood, sweat, and tears. It better get published, and if it doesn’t….”

K, enough with the blood, sweat, and tears. Tears, I’ll believe. Sweat—you're typing or scribbling furiously in a notebook. Unless you have some kind of gland disorder, I doubt sweat was a factor, and don’t even get me started on the unlikelihood of the Voodoo rituals.

Also, quantity doesn’t make quality. Let someone other than an agent or publisher look at the ten-year manuscript before you submit it. Four eyes are better than two. And even at that, don’t be bitter if it gets rejected. You’re one of hundreds—possibly thousands—being rejected today. Move on to the next one.

Solution – Remember that success is not imminent just because long hours of work were put in. Substitute the long time for less time with more fruitful results. Also remember that rejection happens to everyone.

There you have it—15 Cognitive Distortions. They can be debilitating, but now that you’re aware of them, you can avoid them when they come to call. If I had to boil it down into a “final points” section for maximum effectiveness, I’d say the following:

Remember that it’s not just you. Remember that everyone gets rejected. Keep trying. Keep submitting. If trouble persists, find people to read your work. But DO NOT GIVE UP!!!

Wednesday Word Tally

Character: Hanson Gravel
Hanson is a warlock. For my purposes, warlocks are not evil. They are simply wizards who have gifts in combat magic. Hanson works for MIA as part of the field team and in a combative role when the occasion arises. He does his job very well in both cases. He’s tall, light-haired, and handsome. Oh and a womanizer—to quote Vern—“of the worst, or possibly best, type.” Don’t let this color your judgment too much. Hanson’s really not a bad guy, and he’d probably be offended if you thought he was.

DayStart CountWrittenFinal Count

Total Words Written: 10,659
Average Words Per Day: 1523
Words Remaining: 24,098

First week where I had a day where I didn’t make my daily goal of 531. Considering I was moving that day—and that the rest of the week more than made up for it—I’ll let it slide. ;)

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