Updated: Jun 4, 2020
I've been failing a lot lately. You know those times where you pull up those bootstraps and put on those big girl pants and shine your crown and then you walk smack face into a wall? Yep, those kinda failures.
It took me years to understand that I am an empath which means that if you look at me wrong I might scream at you or cry in your face. I'm kind of in a crying mood at the moment. Failure. What does that mean?
Now, I have not failed in the greater sense of the word. I dipped my toe into the big bad world of querying and I think I got frostbite. It might need to be amputated. If you want to know what it's like to put your year-long work out for brutal rejection, let me quote Jerry Maguire to sum it up:
It is an up at dawn pride sucking siege that I will never fully tell you about.
I am new to this world so it's kind of like a newborn doe waddling out into an open field, shaky spindly legs, and wide eyes on the verge of crying. That little terrified baby deer realizes she is in the middle of the Hunger Games and her empath persona is not equipped for that level of madness, so she lies down and plays dead.
Have I failed? Seriously, I have barely started. But why does it feel so much like the time I was in a diving meet and instead of getting my usual score to win for my team, I pulled myself out of a tuck and flailed like Joe Cocker singing a ballad. I smacked the water with the loudest splat, my thigh instantly welting from the whip. Much like pitching my novel, I stayed underwater as long as my lungs could hold out so I did not have to look at all those faces thinking, oh, the poor girl thinks she can do this.
Writing is a learning process. You only get better by taking criticism and going back to learn more and fail more and as Margaret Atwood said, "Fail better." So you keep failing better. You keep learning and revising and then you find out that now you have to learn how to pitch the darn thing. Because you can't get the book deal if you don't get the agent, and you can't get the agent if you don't query and querying is a pride sucking siege, remember?
Trying to toughen your armor before you start does little to prepare you for the inevitable punch to the gut when you are told politely "no thank you" or worse, ignored altogether. So, back to the idea of failure. If we can look at each "no" as a step in the process that teaches us about what not to do, we eventually keep getting directed to something that resembles a "yes". I'm imagining a little mouse getting redirected every time we get to a dead end on a quest to find the cheese.
Here's the thing though- taking the hits and still standing is much more difficult than I thought it would be. I promised myself that I would keep going forever, regardless of how many times I got rejected. I've done one little twitter pitch event and am now ready to hide underwater until I stop breathing.
But what I lack in self-confidence, I make up for in tenacity. Each time I have a nice long cry and hide underwater, I come back with a big breath, drink buckets of coffee, and focus on getting better. Failing better.
The rejection isn't the killer, its the process of learning to change that feels so damn awful. Because vulnerability is not something we want to feel, but maybe we should start. I will keep showing up. But if you see me playing dead, just move along. I will be back soon.