The Stories I Tell ~ from The Word Cellar

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I love stories. I'm the one at social functions with a dozen new anecdotes. But I worry about hogging the conversation. Sometimes I tell myself that I'll be quiet and let others do the talking. But no matter how hard I try, my stories insist on bursting out! Here I can let my stories (the classics that I tell again and again, as well as new ones that unfold along the way) run free. I'm a professional writer and editor, and sole proprietor of The Word Cellar. I write for a variety of publications and clients on everything from green buildings and nuclear reactors to entrepreneurship and the arts. If you need words written, edited, or enlivened, I can help. Contact me.

7.09.2008

I'll Never Get It: Thoughts on rejection


"You can read your thing in front of me -- and the cats."

This is what my husband says to comfort me and make me laugh. I'm being sad and pissy about not being chosen to read for the BlogHer Community Keynote.

It works. I laugh. But when I walk away, I still feel sad, jealous, and angry. I'm surprised by how disappointed I feel. Then I sit down at the computer and decide to write about it, because what else is there to do but write?

Man, that last line was trite. No wonder my submission wasn't chosen as one of 16 among hundreds. Clearly, I suck. I'm not funny. I'm not poignant. I don't have a way with words. I'm never going to hack it as a "real" writer, whatever that is.

Okay, so I don't really believe all of those things. One rejection hasn't completely done me in. There was a time when I would have immediately jumped to those conclusions, but not now. Still, I do feel a bit like that guy from Sesame Street who tried his hardest to bang out classics like "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" or "Yankee Doodle" on the piano and ended up banging his head off of the keys instead, crying out: "Oh, I'll never get it! Never!"

But you know the most annoying thing of all? Even in the midst of this hotbed of ugly emotions, the lesson of the situation crystallized almost immediately: I don't do many things that carry the possibility of rejection.

Aw, man! You mean there's a nice little lesson wrapped up in this uncomfortable feeling?

So now I'm disappointed and annoyed. Can't I just behave like a bratty five-year-old for five more minutes? Can't I just throw myself to the ground, kicking and screaming, bemoaning how unfair it all is?

I throw myself down kicking and screaming alright, but the lesson comes anyway. And like all realizations that emerge from uncomfortable moments, it's true: I don't risk rejection. And then the obvious significance of that epiphany surfaces: Is this why I keep putting off pitching articles to national magazines? Is this why I haven't figured out where to send my essays? Am I insulating myself from failure rejection?

Oooh, see that typo? I accidentally wrote "failure" instead of "rejection." Isn't that telling?

I went through a time with my freelancing when I was convinced I was -- and forever-would-be -- a failure. I really did weep and wail that I'd never get it. You want to know the crazy part? This came after I'd already had some significant and encouraging success. Heck, I quit my day job to freelance fulltime, confident that I could make a living at it. But then life got hard and I let various things overwhelm me. It became so much easier and more convenient to play the victim card. And you know what happened? The more I wailed that I'd never get it, the truer it became. My fear became a self-feeding parasite. The more I feared "failure," the more I "failed."

At the beginning of this year, I finally decided that I had to make one last stand and go down fighting. And do you know what happened? Of course you know what happened. Once I stopped focusing on the fear and potential failure, everything fell into place. Work rolled in, I picked up new clients, and my income in the first six months of this year is more than all of last year.

Over and over again, we must learn what we already know. So I guess that means it's time to stop playing it safe. This relatively minor but important rejection has pulled back the cloak from my fears, exposing them to the cold wind of self-awareness. I have nowhere left to hide. Not even hackneyed metaphors can save me now.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Jena Strong said...

Congratulations on your rejection.

Without it, you wouldn't have shared this, which was just the reminder I needed this morning:

"Once I stopped focusing on the fear and potential failure, everything fell into place."

7/09/2008 6:52 AM  
Blogger bella said...

YOur honesty here is refreshing.
ANd gives me pause.
How quick I am to not go for something or offer something or put something into the world because of the what ifs from "out there" but its the in me that is really holding me back.
I love that you are writing THROUGH this expereince.
Keep it coming.

7/09/2008 3:48 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

A man wiser than me said it is better to run towards the light than run away from the darkness.

It's about what you focus on.

I can't wait to meet you at BlogHer...and maybe sneak away to see Eddie Izzard.

7/09/2008 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Angel said...

I don't class myself as a writer I'm an artist who happens to be editor of my own magazine and blog, every time I write a blog post i feel totally out of my depth, and the same feelings of rejection and failure cloud my thinking.

Its comforting to know that other people have the same feelings and overcome them like I have to everyday.

I have really enjoyed reading your blog. Thanks

7/12/2008 7:36 AM  

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