Has anything happened to you which unexpectedly helped you to grow, as a person?
For me, it wasn’t writing a book. That was fun, not therapy. It was what happened afterwards.
Nothing has toughened me up.
I held my little kernel of hope close to my heart, that people would instantly love my novel. They say there’s one born every minute, and that minute it was me. I got encouraging, wonderful feedback from friends, even strangers. “Arafura was so funny”, “I loved the messages in the novel”, “Where can I get an Adam for myself?”, “Please get on with the sequel, I can’t wait!” But that didn’t translate to comments/many sales on Amazon or publishers/movie producers knocking my door down. Hence –
My in-the-end uplifting lessons from rejection –
1. Rejection isn’t always personal.
People are busy. They don’t get how I was a duffer and aligned my identity with my novel. Also, a couple of readers had issues with the male lead, see Arafura launch -women just ‘ovary’ acting . That didn’t mean they had issues with me.
2. I don’t like promoting myself. Marketing involves angst-ridden efforts on a rickety soapbox that I’d rather channel into more writing. Any day.
Marketing is hard, it’s up there with being the only doctor in an Antarctic research station and performing an appendectomy on yourself, or walking naked through a shopping mall (and no one noticing!)
As Kal Barteski says, “Sharing art is asking the world to like your insides, but I love writing more than I’m scared about that.”
How seriously should I take rejection? The negative side of me thinks – Susan, you haven’t come to the attention of anyone influential so far, therefore your work is crap. Forget about writing. But I’m not writing for fame. Despite the encouragement of the inspiring, famous role models below,
3. I’m writing for me.
I’m slowly learning to stop looking for external appreciation, to stop treating other people as a mirror that reflects back to me whether I’m a ‘good writer’, even a ‘good person’.
4. When people tell you who they are, Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. Just as importantly, however, when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
A friend remembers his father introducing him as ‘the shy one’. It took him years to realise it was his father’s opinion, not fact, that perhaps he wasn’t shy. (I actually thought he was a party animal.)
Life after self-publishing has caused me to explore the concept of identity. Am I my job, what house I own, the car I drive? Or how funny, kind, organised, educated, coloured, old, ethnic, eccentric or how wealthy I am? Am I the same person I was twenty years ago, in another part of my hormone cycle, or even this morning when I was less tired? How much belief should we put in our own negative chatter, or even others’ opinions? Other people’s assumptions about us may only reveal a great deal about them and absolutely nothing else.
5. I must rely on myself to define who I am, and I give myself permission to change the definitions.
Maya Angelou also said – ‘identity is something that you are constantly earning, …. a process that you must be active in.’
It can take courage and insight to explore the ‘active’ bit. We are not just born passively with our identities. Sure nature and nurture play a part, but so do we.
Sometimes I even forget to be active when writing, and get my storyline in a pickle. Oh my goodness, I think, what that character said is harsh! (I think different characters are just different identities inside me talking to each other – like Jung’s sub-personalities. I definitely had to draw down on my inner commando when I visited the dentist yesterday.) Or, I think, what can I do about the dead body/loaded gun/missing undies from two chapters ago? To my surprise, I realise I’m in charge of where my story will go. Same with my life. I wait passively for two weeks for the Urban Farmer to change a light-bulb, when it dawns on me that I can do it myself. I really am in charge.
6. We’re in charge of our lives and the choices we make. No blaming others or waiting games.
When I let go and enjoy writing with no attachment to what people think, I feel I have more control and power over my own voice. I’m off to Darwin next week to research the final touches to the setting of the sequel to Arafura. Again Kal’s words resonate for me, “I feel scared and safe when I’m writing.” That’s an exciting enough journey for now.
7. Rejection isn’t forever. If it floats your boat and isn’t hurting anyone, keep going!
What lessons have you learnt when you didn’t expect to?
Brene Brown: The Daring Interview Series – Kal Barteski
Brain Pickings by Maria Popova: Maya Angelou on Freedom
The Ego Trick – Julian Baggini