Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Writing: Winning the Mental Game

By Iola Goulton

I’ve recently returned from the 2017 Romance Writers of New Zealand conference. Our two keynote speakers were Kristen Lamb, social media jedi and bestselling author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, and Christie Craig (aka CC Hunter), New York Times bestselling romance and YA author.

While neither were specifically tasked with talking about winning the mental game of writing, both touched on it, and I believe their insights are worth sharing today.

Are you an Aspiring Writer?

Kristen Lamb started her all-day keynote session by asking how many in the room were aspiring writers. Maybe half the room raised their hands. She then told us we were wrong. All of us. None of us were aspiring writers.

Kristen believes that if we write, we are writers.

If we don’t, we are not. We might be pre-published writers, but we are not aspiring. We are writers, and we need to take ourselves seriously as writers. If we don’t, who will?

The Neverending (Rejection) Story

The next day, we had two sessions from Christie Craig. At the end of her second session she gave us an object lesson I’ll never forget.

Towards the end of her speech, she reached down and pulled a large envelope out of her suitcase. She asked if any of us had ever had our writing rejected. Many people raised their hands. As she spoke, she pulled handfuls of letters—rejection letters—out of the envelope, and sprinkled them on the floor.

Christie talked about how she dropped out of school after tenth grade because she was dyslexic. She talked about how she married at sixteen, and how her mother married at thirteen.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.

Christie talked about pursuing her writing dream, even though her spelling isn’t always that good, and she doesn’t know how to use commas.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.

Christie talked about how much she wanted to be a published writer. Enough to keep writing. Enough to never give up. Enough to keep facing rejection.

She picked up another envelope, pulled out more rejection letters, and sprinkled them on the floor.

Christie asked how many rejection letters we thought she had. Fifty? No. One hundred? No. Two hundred? No. Five hundred? No.

All this time, she is still sprinkling rejection letters on the floor. She told us these weren’t all the letters—some were still at home. She said if we don’t believe that these are all rejection letters that we can come up to the front and put them back in the envelopes. No one volunteered, although several people took photographs.

She picked up another envelope, a yellow envelope that was thinner than the others. She didn’t open it. I thought this was her acceptance letters, or maybe her first contract. No, the yellow envelope held more rejection letters—ones the cat peed on before she could file them.

Christie Craig got more than 600 rejection letters before she was published. Six. Hundred. Now she has (I think) 27 books from major NY publishers. She claims she still doesn't know how to use commas—but boy, can she tell a story that packs a punch and has everyone in the room blinking back tears.

She says if a high school dropout from the back end of Alabama can become a New York Times bestselling author simply because she has the guts to keep going because she wants it so much ... then I can win that mental game. So can you.

And if you ever have the opportunity to hear Christie Craig speak, listen. Just remember to wear waterproof mascara.

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at www.christianediting.co.nzto download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more at www.iolagoulton.com.

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. Wow ... what determination, never taking 'no' for an answer. Love that. Your post is a good prequel to my Thursday post where I focus on what can be achieved and quickly.

    Great encouragement for us, Iola. Thank you for sharing with us. Now I need to get back to writing.

    1. Thanks, Ian!

      I wished I'd taken pictures of her piles of rejections, but I was too busy blinking back the tears and listening to her story. I was enthralled, and encouraged.

  2. It's always the first one that rocks you..... then you grow up. :) I think there's nothing like rejection to make you work harder to improve. Like the spider weaving its web & having it broken time after time, but never giving up.
    Great reminder Iola!

    1. Thanks, Rita!

      Yes, I think there is an element of growing up required to do well with most things in life, including writing.