Over the past year and a half, I’ve written 554 pages of fiction across three in-progress novels. Great, NBD. The writing is the easy part, for me. But when it’s time to do something with the stuff I’ve written, I freeze.
This is a big part of the reason I signed up for Tiffany Han’s #100rejectionletters, the live portion of which ended last week. The goal is to get 100 rejections, each of which will be represented by a gold star sticker on the chart Tiffany sent us. And after four weeks of planning and preparing, it’s time to start racking up some gold stars.
It probably won’t surprise you that I don’t like rejection. Writing, whether the words get written at all—that I can control. What I can’t control is what happens after they leave me. And underneath all the work I’ve done on myself, I’m still a control freak.
The thing about control, though, is that it’s an illusion. You can make a million rules to keep yourself safe, hold yourself back from opportunities, worry endlessly about how others will see you, fail to make peace with how you see yourself. Keep people at arm’s length because if they can’t have you, they can’t leave you. Stick to projects and relationships that don’t challenge you, don’t require you to sacrifice anything, don’t really ask anything of you at all.
And the price of the illusion of control? A series of what-ifs. What if I’d pitched myself for that speaking slot? What if I’d told him how I really feel? What if I’d tried to get a literary agent instead of continually coming up with reasons why I wasn’t ready? What if I shared my work in spite of the fear that it isn’t perfect, won’t ever be perfect? What if I told the truth?
The reason people still believe in overnight success is that hardly anyone talks about this part of the process, the part where you’re putting in the work but not seeing results. Where you’re doing the thing, daily, and getting back a series of Nos, or, as in my case, simply too afraid to make the ask in the first place. So as I start actually trying to have the only thing I’ve wanted since I was six years old—a writing career—I’m going to start sharing publicly what I’m working on and failing at. It’s a long list, but currently includes:
- Finishing two of the aforementioned novels by the end of 2019 and trying to sell one
- Launching a new weekly podcast on what creativity looks like across a variety of industries and roles
- Formalizing the creative collective I started last year, Artists With Day Jobs
As of today, I’ve gotten zero rejections from the handful of pitches I’ve sent out, but I have a couple of near-certain gold stars coming my way. And that’s OK.