I had a meltdown the other day. You know how you can feel totally insecure and want to throw in the towel? I am not good enough, smart enough, nor skilled enough. Writing is just too hard.
On the day of the meltdown, I had received three rejection letters from different literary competitions. I was expecting the first rejection. A long shot. Shrugged it off. The second one was a form letter – I had thought I had a pretty good chance for a spot in the journal. My blood pressure rose. When the third rejection plunked into my email box, it hit me hard and personal. The email came very close to saying, “How could you ever conceive we would publish something from you? You don’t have the credentials.” In my mind they said, “You are a grammatically challenged cretin. And shallow,” with a perfect British accent while their manicured hand tossed my manuscript into a trashcan.
Cursing loudly, I jumped up knocking a stapler off my desk. It landed with a thud on my little toe. By the time I looked down, the toe resembled an undercooked blood sausage. Mottled red and deep purple, growing rounder by the second, stretched skin threatening to explode. Eeooogh. Squinting through tears, I grabbed the first straight object within reach and a roll of masking tape to splint the toe. In the end, my toe was strapped to a red crayon. An ironic writing injury.
Maybe I needed help. I wrote an email to my first writing teacher. She is lovely. Her words, in person and on the page, are knowledgeable and gracious. My email said something along the lines of:
“I can’t do this. I will never be literary in a classical sense.”
In all her generosity and wisdom, she asked me to question why I wanted to be “literary” and why not be “the best version of myself.” She asked me to think about my growth as a writer over the years. She gave some concrete suggestions to improve my skills. Mainly, she believed in me. She said she wanted me to sell many books!
Well, that stopped me in my tracks. In this lonely and hypercritical profession, I had been trying to do this by myself. That was a mistake.
Always have people in your corner. People who think you are the best thing since sliced bread. They may not always get what you are doing but they believe in your intentions. They want you to succeed.
Nurture these people. Take them to lunch, make them dinner, share a glass of wine, or go to a movie together.
Over time, two really wonderful things will happen. One, in a strategic moment, they will very, very gently tell you when you have strayed off course. Helpful information and you will be open to it because of the supportive relationship. Two, you will be generous in return – believe in their intentions, want them to succeed, and very, very gently give them feedback. Everyone gains.
In this way, we find our “best version” of one’s self. Mine is “boldly honest and best snarky.” What is yours?
Now take yourself to lunch.
Next time, invite me. I’ll hobble over.