Today marks my 100th post on this blog.
Lydia and I met last December when we both won a coveted guest hosting spot on the blog, Pimp My Novel. Her article, Ideas that Sell Are Not Always Groundbreaking, showcased her immense talent so of course I wanted her for my 100th post!
And now, without further ado, here’s Lydia…
Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway
I was an extremely shy child, all the way through high school. My mother, I remembered, used to tell stories about how wild she’d been in her younger years. This wasn’t difficult for me to imagine because, in her older years, she didn’t seem to be any less wild, or any more wise, just… older. The middle daughter of three (I have an older brother as well, but for the sake of the female reference here, we won’t count him), I am the one that most resembles my mother. But, obviously, I’d been blessed with my father’s socially awkward personality.
This posed a problem for me growing up. I had striking physical features (voted “best eyes” in sixth grade, just saying) without the typical flamboyance to bring me to my full potential, which is, of course, the ability to get whatever I want, as my mother (usually) did.
Her cure for this was to force me into situations where I had to speak up. This, of course, terrified me to tears, or sometimes just made me freeze, like a possum playing dead, hoping she would feel sorry for me and take over the task, whatever it happened to be. And, as I can see when I look back on it now, these were not overly-complicated things she’d ask me to do. They were all simple, such as going up to the fast-food counter to ask for a drink refill.
Still, there were times when I just couldn’t do it. And I’ll never forget the words she said to me one day while I sat across from her at a table, staring into her big brown doe eyes that looked just like mine except for their color. She said, “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
So I did. And from that day on, that was all I had to tell myself to get the job done.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had major issue with speaking up and/or defending myself when necessary. And, even as an adult who now has no trouble ordering food from a drive-through window or face-to-face with a waiter, I still want to vomit at the thought of giving a public address of some sort. But if I need to, I will. I feel the fear and do it anyway.
By this point, I’m sure you’re wondering what all this has to do with writing. Well, actually, it has nothing to do with writing, and everything to do with rejection. Yep. The R word. The word that can single-handedly make an otherwise talented writer give up on the craft altogether, or question his/her well-practiced skills to the point of destroying their hard work. Or, the most common, is that pesky little R word makes perfectly nice people turn into industry-hating monsters. “Down with the system!” they cry, when what they’re really thinking is, “Why aren’t I good enough?”
That, my friends, is a question that I liken to a coconut (odd, I know, but just hear me out). Coconuts are delicious, are they not? But have you ever tried to crack one open? It takes time, a great deal of effort, and an analyzation of technique that involves trial and error until you finally succeed. So when you ask yourself, “Why aren’t I good enough?” you’re trying to crack this coconut, and it’s damn hard to get it open, but once you do, the pay-off is downright scrumptious.
I’m coming up on my two-year anniversary of when I started writing toward publication, which isn’t that long, really, when you think about it. But I would attribute at least some of my small success to constantly trying to crack that coconut. How can I improve? What can I do to make this better? Or, when I’m sure a story is great, but still getting rejections, I ask, Am I pitching this to the right people?
That last one is probably the toughest, and is what makes this business so frustrating at times. Market research helps but we can’t read people’s minds, and we can’t control what other submissions they are receiving at the same time as ours. And this is why many in the industry say that getting published or “making it big” is a result of luck.
Luck? No. I refuse to believe that.
It’s easy to say that things come about for intangible reasons when you can’t see everything that has led up to it, the “behind the scenes”, so to speak. From an outside standpoint, it certainly does give the impression that someone is an overnight success, but I know that’s not the case, because I’m currently living those “behind the scenes” moments that no one else sees.
As of the time I’m writing this, May 2010, five months into the year, I have zero acceptances on my short story submissions. Zero. And every last one of those rejection letters threatens to drag me into a writer’s worst nightmare, the pit of Non-Writing Hell, or the Let’s Give Up Writing For Life Club, and those are both scary, scary places to be.
Even scarier, though, is getting up the nerve to throw yourself in front of the firing squad again by sending out more submissions, because every rejection you add to your pile is like another twist of the knife in your heart of dreams. I prefer to view them as notches in my belt, or rites of passage, telling myself, I’ve gotten this far, I’ve earned these heartaches, and I’m still standing on the ground, I haven’t fallen, there’s nowhere to go but up.
Sometimes that isn’t good enough, though. Sometimes all I can tell myself is, Feel the fear and do it anyway. So I do. And so far, it’s worked; I’m still going. This is not an insurmountable task we writers are striving to accomplish, and as long as you keep trying, you never truly fail.