Does Negativity Work As Motivation For Writers? Maybe.


‘Your work is unfit for publication.’

About two years ago, I removed myself from a very difficult ‘collaborative’ effort with some other authors. The statement above came from someone in the group and I’ll be honest, it stung. I’m not here to name names — that’s not something I do and besides, what’s the point? (I’ve since joined or help manage other author groups and have had amazing experiences. @BestSellingRead is a great example).

I left that original group for a few reasons:

  • needing to make actual money to help my family, instead of volunteering eight hours daily — plus nights and weekends — for something that generated very little income, and a great amount of frustration and discouragement
  • unilateral decision-making in what was supposed to be a collaborative effort
  • too much negativity, to the point that I could feel myself spiraling into a depression. I had to leave.

The last point is the one I’ll focus on today.


It was while I was still with the group that I began writing what would become Broken Pieces and someone said that to me. As I started sharing the pieces with our internal critique group, most of the members offered helpful critique. A few others were consistent in their negative bashing of my work. They told me that writing about serious issues wasn’t my branding, that nobody would want to read it, that’s it’s a downer.

(I do take a small measure of satisfaction in winning six awards, having two Top 10 Amazon reviewers give the book five stars, and being signed by Booktrope for print — which drops on Amazon this weekend — but I digress.)

I’m no different than many a newbie writer: I let that feedback seep into my consciousness and started to question the work that poured out of me (I tell my editor it’s ‘word vomit’ for a reason). Fortunately, she had my back and kept telling me to trust my vision, ignore the negativity and keep writing. Thank goodness I listened to her!


After much introspection, I continued on with my project. The issue with what this person said to me echoed my own misgivings: would people connect to Broken Pieces’ ‘pieces,’ which deals with childhood sexual abuse, date rape, suicide, and difficult relationships? It definitely wasn’t my normal ‘brand,’ that much is true, though, as a nonfiction writer already, I felt I could pull it off with some changes in my marketing strategy.

Ultimately, I stuck with my vision for one basic, highly personal reason: I had finally given myself permission to discuss the childhood sexual abuse. It became empowering to share that, instead of hiding it in shame, as I had done my whole life. Who was this person to tell me what to do or how to write? It was a great lesson for me:

NOBODY has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t write (legal exceptions notwithstanding). 

(If you’re still worried that you’ll have to wait until your parents die to write a story with sex in it, guess what? Your’e an adult, possibly with kids of your own. As my father said, ‘How do you think you got here?’ Or as I say, the jig is up. They know.)


Negative reviews are a bitter pill to swallow. I’m no different than anyone else. I certainly don’t like reading reviews that call my book ‘whiny and boring,’ or say that ‘everyone has dealt with this stuff’ (which offends me greatly, particularly as a voice for other survivors) but whatever — it says more about them than me.). I don’t think I’m perfect, and I’m open to learning from readers.

But it’s a review. It’s one review. A few hated it, more than a few have loved it. Regardless, I keep writing.

Too many authors are crushed by negative reviews, and my hope is to tell you that yea, it hurts. But at least they read it. Not every book has to be a #1 bestseller on the New York Times list to be a success. A success is pouring your everything into a book and making it the best you possibly can (hire professionals, people: editor, proofreader, cover artist, formatter). Surround yourself with the best — I guarantee it rubs off.


What’s my definition of success? A success is when a fellow survivor contacts me and pours his/her heart out because we have a common bond. There are many greater measurements of success besides sales. Decide what will help you silence the negative voices and move forward.

Being a writer isn’t easy. Sometimes negative criticism is what we need, to push and motivate us to really dig deep and pull out the good stuff. For some writers, that’s what it takes. But protect yourself. Don’t let other people hang their issues on you. Shake it off.

And always, always, keep writing.





  1. Valerie Rind on December 13, 2013 at 5:31 am

    I appeared on a HuffPost Live segment and follow-up article about the personal events that inspired me to write “True Stories of Gold Diggers and Deadbeat Dads: How to Prevent Friends and Family From Ruining Your Finances” (book in progress).

    The trolls came out in droves. It motivated me to write a blog post, “300 People Said I Was Stupid.” So I managed to turn it around and get more content out of the experience. Bring on the negativity! 🙂

    • Rachel Thompson on December 13, 2013 at 11:10 am

      That’s great! The old adage proves true (with some marketing on your part) about bad publicity. I totally respect you and am glad you moved forward with your work. hugs, girl.

  2. Patricia Lynne on December 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Dealing with negativity is a nasty little thing we have to deal with in terms of writing. Before I published my first book, I told myself “Not everyone will like it. Some people will hate it. That’s okay.” It didn’t keep negative reviews from stinging, but it helped me accept them and process them in order to grow from them. Of course, what also helps is having positive support to counter negativity, a friend reminding you of what you’ve accomplished.

    • Rachel Thompson on December 13, 2013 at 1:31 pm

      yes, that’s it exactly. Any artist: writer, artist, fashion designer, musician — anyone who is creating something that can be looked at subjectively, will have to deal with negative criticism. It’s as inevitable as taxes, so why not embrace it?

      Or at the very least, not let it affect us in a toxic negative way.

      thanks for reading and sharing.

  3. Shannon Taylor Hodnett on December 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Thank you for this post, Rachel. ♥
    The first thing I heard about becoming a writer was that you have to have a thick skin. So I mentally prepared myself all along, knowing some people would like it, some wouldn’t. But it still hurt, sometimes during the critique process…but also after when someone who was my own friend in real life had only negative things to say….she even told me her son’s girlfriend could finish the book. =P That’s ok, I was ready for that…and I was surprised that I was pretty ok with hearing that, eventually. But those first little stabs of negativity suck. lol
    What I didn’t bargain for was that most of my negativity comes from ME. I am so hard on myself, when I would never be that hard on someone else. I’m trying, though, to get out of that mindset…and know that I won’t be perfect, but I will be me. I’m the only one who can be. ♥

    • Rachel Thompson on December 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm

      Those damn voices! I totally get it. I basically just lock that stuff in a box and hide the key. That stuff is toxic and doesn’t taste very good either.

      You’ll get there. Just trust yourself.

  4. Stephanie N. on December 13, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    Great article and as always, on point advice for this who struggle with similar situations. I find negative people live to suck the energy out of others and for a very long time, their voices were the ones I heard most. It’s taken plenty of work but I’ve finally learned to go the other way and fast. I have had plenty of positive support from both friends ands strangers urging me to pursue my writing. Not long ago, one person told me my writing was forced and simple…that comment almost landed over a year of work in the shredder. Instead, I asked for an opinion from another writer who I happen to hold in high regard. She was the one who helped me get back on track by pushing me to stay true to my voice. I’m still writing…

    • Rachel Thompson on December 13, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks, Stephanie :). There’s always somebody who has something to say about what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s kind of amazing — particularly coming from non-writers. As always, consider the source, right?

      And yes, surround yourself with people who help you as opposed to hurt you. That said, yes, the truth hurts — but if you work closely with a quality editor and/or a critique group, you’re making a good start.


  5. […] Does Negativity Work As Motivation For Writers? Maybe. ( […]

  6. Jason Ramsey on December 15, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    Negativity can cause us to react, which usually isn’t good. Reaction is mostly based on emotion and instinct, neither of which are useful when dealing with a negative situation. I loved your line about ‘it’s only one review’. That’s so true. I think we could all take a step back and look at the whole situation when dealing with any type of negativity.

  7. Belinda Boring on December 15, 2013 at 8:52 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this. All I can say is perfect timing! I appreciate everything you said here and agree, don’t ever let someone else define who you are or how you feel about yourself. There will always be someone who “thinks” they know better. Just because someone has an opinion doesn’t mean we must take it on as truth. And yep, keep on writing!

  8. George Hilbert on December 15, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    We deal with negativity. We may even incorporate it to make us stronger. But we should never choose it either as a motivator or a mechanism for change. The price is just too high. There are other things that will just as effectively motivate us to do our best……..Just my $.02

  9. Becky Downs on December 15, 2013 at 9:48 pm

    What a great motivational post!

  10. Becky Downs on December 15, 2013 at 10:04 pm

    The last thing a child wants to hear on her birthday when at Chuck E Cheese with DBD is how he and his wife plan to go to the ROSE BOWL. She said, “All I could think about was they could do that but he can’t pay his child support”

  11. Becky Downs on December 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    DBD calls son to wish him happy birthday. Son says “THANKS FOR THE SPERM DONATION” repeats it two additional time during conversation and said he just laughed.

  12. Becky Downs on December 15, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    As to the question regarding negativity. It’s an asset that must be used with care, because it ONLY works when used in the proper manner.

  13. Becky Downs on December 15, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    The most shocking thing my oldest daughter said to me after coming out of court was, “Dad is going to kill you, before he gives you a dime of that money.”

  14. Dana on December 16, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Great tips! I love reading this post. This will motivate writers to continue writing, I love the PEOPLE WILL HATE IT. GET OVER IT. part. Thank you for sharing.

  15. Kim Williams on December 16, 2013 at 6:41 am

    I can’t hear this kind of encouragement enough. Emotional toughness, clarity of personal vision, stick-to-it-ness… no matter what. Too often I’ve let negative and non-supportive feedback squash an idea, and worse, action.

    If there some connection between the sensitivities required of good writers and the vulnerability to internal and external criticisms?

  16. Greg Mischio on December 16, 2013 at 7:03 am

    You made a good move getting out of the group, Rachel. Sometimes we don’t realize how horrible the situation is until we leave.

  17. Laura Hedgecock on December 16, 2013 at 7:35 am

    I suffer from I-want-everyone-to-like-me syndrome, so negativity is a biggie for me. What I really admire from your story, Rachel, is despite the well-meaning negativity, something inside of you said “They’re wrong.” Maybe encountering nay-sayers is part of finding your inner-muse.

  18. Robin Moore on December 16, 2013 at 11:39 am

    No, negativity certainly does not work for me. Honest feedback is what works best. To simply say writing “stinks” & isn’t worthy of publication does not help a writer grow. Even improvements that need to be made can be presented in ways that help a writer grow, not cringe.

  19. Berrak on December 16, 2013 at 1:28 pm

    I’ve been writing, publicly, for the better part of a decade. I recently realized that I’ve been censoring myself because I’ve been so focused on others’ perspective. Negative people are draining and they’re everywhere. If I let them stop me, I would have stopped writing a long time ago. My story may not be that exciting but it’s mine. At the end of the day, it’s my choice to share it.

  20. heather manley on December 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Yes, just keep writing and writing.

  21. The Animated Woman on December 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    Trusting your vision is huge. It took about 20 years for me to get to that point in the animation world. And yeah, a lot of negativity was holding me back, keeping me in my place. But that’s not what motivated me in the end….it was noticing that all along, I had a beautiful pair of wings. I can fly.

  22. Kim Jorgensen Gane on December 16, 2013 at 6:30 pm

    FABulous, Rachel! And CONGRATULATIONS!! I share some of your same experiences, and your story has helped me to understand so many things that have held me back in life. I’m grateful to have found you and to call you a mentor and a friend. Keep doing what you do, girlfriend! Your success is well-deserved! xo

    • Rachel Thompson on December 16, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Thank you, Kim. I’m honored you see me as a mentor — I’m just happy to share what has worked (and NOT worked lol) for me. Negativity is a part of life — it’s how we choose (and it’s a choice) to let it affect our work that makes the difference.

      hugs, girl. thank you again.

  23. […] Via Bad Redhead Media: Does Negativity Work As Motivation For Writers? Maybe. […]

  24. Janie Junebug on December 16, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Good for you for sticking with your dream. Those negative people are “Dream Stealers”.

    Janie, who looks forward to reading Broken Pieces

  25. Robyn LaRue on December 16, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    I’ve discovered, in my own life, that sometimes negativity or opposition crops up just to cement in my heart and mind my purpose and reason for doing something. In that respect, negativity works for me. In terms of worthiness or publishing? Nope.

  26. Jan on December 17, 2013 at 11:17 am

    Wow. I can’t imagine being a part of a critique group where one of the members played God. No one can predict which stories will connect with readers. To even pretend you can is pompousness in the extreme… Good on you for venting. Your story is important!

    • Rachel Thompson on December 17, 2013 at 11:18 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jan. I don’t mean to trash anyone — more to share my experience and what I learned

      It was crazy difficult. This person had quite a lot of experience and I respected that. But I knew enough to exit stage left when she made that comment. Granted, I had the marketing background, but you first have to write a great book — or at least one that’s the best of your ability. My belief in my work — in my vision — is what carried me and what carries me still.

      I believe that she believed she was truly helping me — in her mind, I wasn’t anywhere near her ability. I didn’t have the experience as a writer that she did. What I learned it that THAT’S OKAY — I write my way, others write theirs. My way works for me and that’s enough. It was definitely a hard lesson.

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