Video: Dealing with Rejection and Criticism

In this video Joanna Penn interviews me about dealing with rejection and criticism when you’re pursuing your creative dreams, drawing on insights from my book Resilience.

(If you’re reading via email you may need to click through to the website to watch the video.)

Jo is a novelist and publishing expert, so parts of the interview focus on the specific challenges facing writers – but as you’ll see, most of the ideas are applicable whatever creative field you are working in.

Questions I answer include:

  • Is it possible to succeed as a creative professional without having to deal with rejection and criticism?
  • Is it normal to be afraid of being judged by others? If you experience this fear, how can you deal with it?
  • How can you tell whether criticism is valid or not?
  • What’s the best way to handle criticism?
  • How can you build resilience and bounce back from multiple rejections and biting criticism?

Thanks to Jo for a fun and stimulating conversation.

If you’re remotely interested in writing and publishing, you should subscribe to Jo’s blog – it’s one of a very small number of blogs I keep up with every week.

And there’s lots more advice on dealing with rejection and criticism as a creative person in my book Resilience, available in various formats here.

About the Author: Mark McGuinness is a creative coach and the author of Resilience: Facing Down Rejection and Criticism on the Road to Success.

The 21st Century Creative Podcast

The 21st Century Creative Podcast

Hosted by poet and creative coach Mark McGuinness, The 21st Century Creative podcast helps you succeed as a creative professional amid the demands, distractions, and opportunities of the 21st century.

Each episode features insights from Mark and interviews with outstanding creators – including artists, writers, performers, commercial creatives, directors, producers, entrepreneurs and other creative thought leaders.

Guests include Steven Pressfield, Scott Belsky, Jocenlyn K. Glei, Joanna Penn and Michael Bungay Stanier.

Responses to this Post


  1. Really good ideas – always helpful to hear things as well as read them in the book! As far as criticism goes, I think both your remarks about knowing yourself are really key. Anyone who comments on a creative product can be respectful, knowledgeable, and a good reader or viewer – and just wrong. At least for you at that time. So you have to go back into yourself and the work and decide whether this comment is one that you will use or lose.

    • Thanks Laureen. Yes, even high-quality criticism isn’t necessarily the ‘right’ perspective for you. Good to use it for reflection, but ultimately you are the judge. πŸ™‚

  2. Mark,

    Wonderful insights into rejection and criticism! I love the idea of criticizing the critics.

    I’m also thrilled that you see resilience as something we can build. For the longest time, I saw grit as a fixed quality — one I didn’t have. Lately I’ve been challenging that assumption and treating resilience as a muscle I can build, and I’ve been seeing a huge difference. The amount of time I spend obsessing over rejection has gotten shorter, and I’ve developed my own strategies for moving on.

    I’m excited about your book, too. I’ve been doing (smaller level) research into recovering from failure, rejection, and criticism for the past year and a half, and it’s clear that you have a lot of valuable things to say.

    — Sarah

    PS: I’ve written a series of blog posts on failure and rejection. If you’re interested in reading the latest one, which is the best of the three, let me know, and I’ll share the link. I don’t want to include it here without your permission because that seems spammy. πŸ™‚

  3. Great interview, its really got me thinking. In some instances the pain I’ve felt with rejection/criticism has been a guide for something I have to work on to get to some gold. When I did a big pitch years ago that bombed it hurt so much that I knew I had to deal with it. I went on a stand up comedy course to face my fear of public speaking. I did some open mics that went well then I did one that for me wasn’t great and it hurt. So I stopped.

    Then I bottled giving a little speech at my own wedding and I felt terrible about it for a little bit (I redeemed myself in the evening). I’m now doing a teaching qualification as a way of forcing me to stand up in front of people and present. I’m still intending to do more stand up because I know if I don’t I’d have really missed out on something. So the initial pain I felt from doing that big pitch that sucked has led me onto a whole wealth of experience and made my life much better.