“She was too naïve.” I’ve heard this complaint from so many friends, even my daughter, after watching the new Wonder Woman movie. I get it. It was uncomfortable to see this powerful woman completely unaware of her power, sexuality, and equally naive to the corrosive properties of the dark side of human nature. But to me, it made perfect sense.

So often I think we’re taught to equate success and power with the expectation that we’re innately uber powerful and bold, but for many of us badassery is an evolution. We’re not all born kicking ass and taking names.

It took decades for me to move from wallflower to butt-kicker. Heck, I’m still working on it.  Every. Damn. Day.

I grew up in a strict evangelical-fundamentalist enclave where a woman’s place was in service to her husband and children. Feminism (or any kind of true equality) was a dirty word.

In high school I walked around, head down, watching my feet, with my boyfriend, wearing Christian t-shirts emblazoned with sayings like “No Jesus. No Peace.” I’d wake up at 5:30AM to read my Bible and pray, for fear I’d backslide and lose my salvation if I didn’t work hard enough at it. I began to orient my every move around my boyfriend who would eventually become my ex-husband. My vows to him included a line that I would “follow wherever he led.”

I lived in a constant state of blind fear, utterly unaware to the expanse that my life could have outside of this bubble world.

Over the years, I grew up and away from the strictures of a faith that no longer served me. It took years for a mindset of powerlessness to indoctrinate me, so it only makes sense that it would take years to claw my way out of those limiting beliefs.

Just like Diana Prince, I saw the world through a sheltered upbringing, naive to the realities of modern life–both the good and the bad. But in some ways my upbringing, like Diana’s, prepared me for the battles of real life. The ability to commit to a disciplined life, to share what I believed even though I was scared, helped me for what lied ahead.

I used to call my life “Murphy’s Life” because, for years I felt like I was the perpetual target of a machine-gun firing shit sandwiches at my head. Between divorce, money issues, multiple health issues, deaths of loved ones, and too many things to name here, the experiences that challenged my beliefs catalyzed me to my shift from a lowly servant mindset to that of a woman who takes charge. As it turned out, strength, courage, and wisdom had always been there, deep down. I just didn’t know it yet.

[Spoiler] Throughout the film, we anticipate that Aries will find Diana. The stronger she gets, the closer he gets.

In the final battle scene of the movie, Diana loses a loved one and must face her impossible foe.  She’s on her back, pinned to the ground. It seems hopeless. She can decide to give up, or get up. Our hero breaks through what she thought she believed about herself (and the world) and taps into more power than she realized she had.

For me, that moment came when I had to make the hardest decision of my life: taking my children away from their father. My ex was abusing drugs and mentally abusing our children (and me). The stronger I got, the worse he got. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to patch together the courage to stand up to him. I’m sure I looked like a damned wimp; I sure felt like one. But after so many years of being under his control, pinned to the ground of my own life, I finally realized it had to stop.

For Diana, it took saving the world, to step into her power. For me it was the same, I had to save my world–my children. Les Brown says of being knocked down, that if you can look up, you can get up. And so I finally did. I got up, and strapped on my own villain-kicking boots in order to protect my children from their own father.

The things is, we humans ARE so much more powerful than we believe. We are blind to our own strengths and capabilities. But I truly believe we can become our own heros. And our world needs more of us.

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman gives us a beautifully faceted hero, one whom we watch evolve into claiming her own latent power.

We’re all a different places in our life’s journey. We were or are all naive in some ways, and definitely–at some point–to our own super powers.

I think superhero movies are so popular right now because so many of us feel powerless against the myriad of injustices in our plugged-in, overwrought, global society. If we’re meant to draw inspiration from superheroes, if these fantastical myths are meant to give us hope and strength then this Wonder Woman is the hero we’ve been waiting for. Because when shit got real, she did not stop.

Sure it sounds cheesy, or even cringe-worthy, but here goes: be the hero of your own life. There’s so much more to you than you realize. You don’t have to feel like a badass to start being one.

Get up and into your life, trusting that you’ve got what it takes, and you’ll see that strength, courage, and wisdom has been there  inside you all along.

 

In a market of ideas, why do some take off while others don’t? Why do some authors have mega status while others continue plodding on in obscurity, or with only moderate success?

The literary market fascinates me. There’s this vast ocean of books, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.  published each year and just a handful of them hit it BIG. I won’t pretend to guess that I know the reasons, but thinking about this got me wondering if there are some common traits among bestselling authors.

I think if there was a magic formula we’d know. We’d know because only be those who fit that formula would get books published. But as a writer trying to make it–and by that I mean support myself with my art–I do keep my eyes peeled and my ears open to what seems to set wildly successful authors apart.

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past few years or so in my work with writers, and participating in writing seminars, networking, workshops, and of course, my own research.

To be sure, this kind of mind-blowing success–I’m talking JK Rowling, John Grisham, Elizabeth Gilbert level–is not likely to just happen to most of us, but it can’t hurt to know what these authors have in common.

So, let’s dive in, shall we?

#1 They write a lot. And often they have been for a while. One of the big fallacies that I wish that some successful people would stop perpetuating is the idea that they just tried something and it worked. Sure there are those lucky ducks who get rich quick. I’m not saying luck never has anything to do with it.

But read enough success stories, or listen to enough podcasts like How I Built This or Being Boss and you’ll notice a pattern that successful people worked really hard for it. Whether it was practice, trial and error, or getting a degree, more often than not, it takes time and commitment.

There’s a reason they say “building” a reputation and not “sprouting” a reputation.

Neil Gaiman offers this advice, “Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be – an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words – was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal.

And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain. I said no to editorial jobs on magazines, proper jobs that would have paid proper money because I knew that, attractive though they were, for me they would have been walking away from the mountain. And if those job offers had come along earlier I might have taken them, because they still would have been closer to the mountain than I was at the time.”  (Here’s his full commencement address at The University of the Arts: http://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012)

But before you go quitting your job, please read on.

#2 They submit/pitch a lot and are in it for the long game. One of the stories that has encouraged me the most is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk where she shares how she submitted her writing to publications for almost SIX YEARS before getting something published. That’s a long fucking time to wait. And that’s real commitment.

#3 They believed in their project(s). We’ve all heard certain authors say that they didn’t think anyone would actually publish their work. This is one of those moments where I wonder if their hindsight is really 20/20.

Who writes for so long and submits proposal after proposal if they think they have absolutely no hope?

It’s likely best not to have expectations, but I have a hunch that they believed someone would say yes, eventually.

When asked about her faith in her first Harry Potter book, before it was published, J K Rowling said, “You know, I can say this now, I was quite diffident about saying it for a long time. But I did have a belief, with Harry, that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to take it, because it didn’t fit. People said children’s books had to be half the length, and what an old-fashioned subject, a boarding school. I did have this feeling that the difficult thing would be persuading someone to publish it – but that if it was, people would like it.

(Read the full interview here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/28/conversation-lauren-laverne-jk-rowling-interview )

#4 They stood for something. Often something different/unique. These famous authors have instant recognition in our minds. We know them for their style, their voice, their subject matter, or persona of writing. I think a big reason many authors don’t get there is because they aren’t deeply rooted in who they are, what they offer, what/who they stand for, or what they seek to understand. Aka they don’t know what their brand is.

This of course, is of utmost importance in the stories we write as well. Depth of plot and character, as well as intimate knowledge of themes and what both you and your writing is about is key.

#5 They are as tenacious as fuck. They made time for their writing, they got agents, they created book proposals, they wrote essays, or stories, or whatever. The point is, they didn’t make excuses for finding the time to finish their work. They did the work. Stephen King wrote every night after his two day jobs, in the laundry room, on a makeshift desk his wife made for him.

#6 They are focused. Maybe this one could be combined with the point just above, but I want to emphasize it. Perhaps because I need to remind myself of this so often. I love ideas, always have. But the problem is, I find myself jumping on too many of them and doing way too many disparate things, which makes me fall behind on finishing the things I’ve already started.

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.” –Ray Bradbury

What is clear is that all of these fabulously successful writers carve out time to write, consistently. They make it a priority.

#7 Most of them had day jobs, so there’s no excuse. JK Rowling was a single mom with a low-paying job who was on state assistance while she wrote the first Harry Potter book. I try to remind myself of this when I’d rather be working out a storyline than getting my other/paid work done.

Besides I think writing in a vacuum often produces navel-gazing, academic, philosophic work, whereas having other obligations while writing, however you do it (doesn’t have to be a day job), produces richer writing and more interesting work.

Here’s what Maya Angelou said, in an interview with Harvard Business Review:

Interviewer: “When you were working at those early jobs, did you ever envision what you would become?”

Maya: “No, but I didn’t think I wouldn’t. I somehow got the feeling early on that if human beings did a thing, I could study it and try to do some of it too. And one thing led to another. If I had not studied Latin in school, I wouldn’t have found it as easy to comprehend the structure of language. Had I not danced, I might never have really listened to music and known I could compose something. You see? I understood early that not everything I did wasn’t going to be a masterpiece, but I would try to do it the best I knew how. I’ve listened to an inner voice and had enough courage to try unknown things. And I think everything in its time.”

And that brings us to what I think is one of the most important points of success.

#8 They had really great ideas/stories that were usually well executed. It seems to me that more often than not their stories or ideas were not only great, but were well crafted. How many times have you read a book, seen a movie, or watched a TV show and thought, well it was a good premise, but it lacked [fill in the blank]? These BIG successful books, essays, screenplays, etc. are (with definite exceptions) excellent ideas, well played.

I think we often underestimate the power of great ideas.

#9 They often felt a higher calling to write. One more quote from Maya Angelou, to sum this point up: “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you.”

Whether you or I ever get to the top of our mountains, I think Ms. Angelou’s advice is always good.  If you love what you’re doing, even if you’re making your money elsewhere, you’ll enjoy this life more anyway.

Here’s hoping that someday, your name will be in lights. Or at least that you get to do more of what you love.

artist sitting on the street with paintings behindThere’s this unspoken longsuffering ethos in the literary world that writers must suffer for their craft, always look at their work as inadequate; and be relentless in their pursuit of the grand art of it all. And the ultimate reward for this holy work? Being a part of a literary elite culture of back-patting and back-stabbing.

I’m calling bullshit.

Of course this rationale is also prevalent in the art world at large. When I was a child with a natural penchant for drawing and art, I was told at every turn how I could never make money with art. So I gave it up for a long while and became a preschool teacher (another high paying option, ha!).

As an adult writing student, most of my writing teachers encouraged us to submit to literary journals with readerships of hundreds and maybe thousands. It was rare that we’d talk about writing for a big commercial publication with readership in the millions.

The self-publishing deluge and mass of crappily written books out there would seem to support this higher literary calling mentality. But I can’t help but wonder why we writers must choose between these extremes. Isn’t there some middle-ground?

Look, I truly do believe that being critical of one’s own work is a great way to improve. It’s essential. And the relentless pursuit of art for art’s sake is worthwhile. But I would guess that many of us want to not only share our writing, but share it with the widest audience possible. So that tired writer narrative doesn’t serve us so well in the real world.

If all you want is to be in the great literary journals and perhaps be looked back upon as a literary genius of your time, that’s awesome. There’s no shame in that. Again, the world needs this high art  writing. I’m not saying I don’t want to be published in literary journals. I do, for sure (though I’m no literary genius).

But can we be honest in saying hardly anyone actually reads these literary journals? Many of them don’t even pay their writers and have six-month long acceptance cycles.

Can we stop holding this up as the ultimate in writerhood?

If I’m trying to sell a book–a book that I’d like to be commercially successful and of literary quality–it seems more likely to get a better deal if I’ve been published in the New York Times and O magazine, not just literary journals.

I don’t want to sacrifice quality, but if I’m going to spend my time honing my writing, doesn’t it make sense to get some commercial success out of it as well?

I want my writing to change minds now, and as controversial as it might be to say, I would love to have bestseller (let’s all stop pretending we don’t want this), and to someday support myself with my art (gasp). Maybe you do too.

I think the relentless self-bashing, pining for awards to give us  a sense of worth, and comparing ourselves to each other, does not serve our art, or each other.

I know it’s not popular to say, but I’m rejecting the idea that writers should be self-loathing, humble-braggers who are content with a hand-to-mouth existence in pursuit of their higher calling.

This is one of the reasons I am involved with BinderCon, because attending their LA conference was the first time I ever felt like I could actually do this writing thing and maybe even make some money at it.

Anyway, that’s my rant. Keep on going with your art/calling/passion/project/business! I hope this encourages you to make your own path, the one that suits your life.

Low Information DietI’m one of those people who naturally wants to do 4.5 million things almost all the time. Life is full of possibilities and opportunities and, let’s face it, there’s never been a time when so much information has been so available. Did I mention I’ll also love researching the hell out of things?

But, as the saying goes, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” If I want to actually get anywhere I have to pare down.

This was a big realization to me as a I began to pursue my dream of becoming a writer and speaker. Honestly, it’s been something I have been working on ever since I read The Four-Hour Workweek, by Tim Ferriss, back in 2008. This book changed the way I would forever think of life optimization and work–you should read it. But let’s get at the point here.

One big ‘ole important step to figuring out what you want and how to get it is by clearing your mind of distraction. Easier said than done, I know.

Post-election, I’m realizing how much more I need to do this lately. I can feel my stomach turn and my shoulders tense when I see yet one more story about Trump.

Every time I’ve gone on an information diet, whether it’s for a week, or a month I feel more at peace, more focused, and happier. It’s helped me focus on what I really want, and take bigger strides to making it a reality.

We humans aren’t meant to carry all the information that is lobbed at us every day; and science is starting to show us just how bad this problem is.

So here is the Tim Ferriss Low Information Diet, in short:

  1. No newspapers, audio books, podcasts, magazines.
  2. No news websites
  3. No TV (or YouTube), except one hour of purely pleasure viewing each night.
  4. No reading books, except one hour of fiction pleasure reading.
  5. No browsing the internet, unless it’s completely necessary.

These are pretty strict, and in the beginning, people (me, ahem) often need to go on this drastic diet in order to “reset” their information addiction. Here’s my personal version, for right now:

  1. Only check social media accounts twice/day (yeah, I’m that bad)
  2. Only listen to story-driven podcasts (like Modern Love, The Moth, and Dear Sugar), limiting “work” podcasts (like How I Built This, BinderCast, etc.) to once per week.
  3. TV: Only Netflix and Amazon (no advertisements)

I find that if I don’t go on social media much I don’t end up browsing around the interwebs aimlessly. And I don’t get caught up in the next crazy political headline.

Think about starting your own version of a Low Information Diet. And tell me how it goes!

Today is #GivingTuesday and there are so many charities to give to.  How do you choose?

I think we all must give with our own heartstrings in mind.  What causes pull at you?

My personal top picks:

Someone Cares Soup Kitchen

My family knows from experience that the people who run and volunteer at this organization are making a difference for those who are homeless or living in poverty. http://www.someonecareskitchen.org/

BinderCon (Out of the Binders, Inc.)

This awesome non-profit helps women and gender non-conforming writers learn, network, and grow. They are working to balance the huge gender gap in the journalism and literary worlds. (I also work and volunteer for this organization.)

https://www.crowdrise.com/outofthebindersdecem/fundraiser/bindercon

1888

1888 is a local 501 (c) 3 literary and cultural organization, founded by my friend & colleague, Kevin Staniec. They develop educational programs, produce collaborative projects and publish literature from around the world.

http://1888.center/support

UNAIDS (Today is also World AIDS Day)

Fighting one of the worst diseases on our planet, UNAIDs is working to END AIDS in our generation.

https://donations.unaids.org/

The Global Fund for Women

This organization campaigns for  women’s right to live free from violence, slavery, and discrimination; to be educated; to own property; to vote; and to earn a fair and equal wage.

http://www.globalfundforwomen.org/

Arts Orange County

This organization supports and builds awareness for the arts in Orange County, CA

http://www.artsoc.org/

Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA)

This charter public school offers exceptional arts and academic education to children in varying arts disciplines, regardless of their economic status.

Donate through their Hearts for the Arts campaign >

And hey, if you aren’t in a position to donate today just help spread the word. Every voice matters and every dollar counts for these worthwhile organizations.

 

This is a piece I’ve been holding on to for years (since my kids were in elementary school). Today I was inspired by a fellow writer to post this. Hope you can relate. 😀 

fighting-dirtyPhyllis Diller once said, “Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the sidewalk in a blizzard.”

Is it just me or have you ever felt like “Dirty” is actually conspiring against you? As if no matter how much you clean, you’ll never win? There is a war going on in my home. It’s not between me and my children, or even my boyfriend. No, this is between me and Dirty!

On any given day as I suit up with my all natural cleaning products, my vacuum, and an iron-willed determination to rid the house of squalor, the onslaught begins. Quietly at first, it materializes in the Little Stains on the carpet, whispering their disappointment.

“How you could you have missed us? Tsk, tsk!”

Then the Dirty Laundry taunts me, piling up in flaccid indifference. Like wallowing swine, it revels in repose.

The Dust leers at me, collecting itself on every prone surface. I dust away that which I know full well will return in only moments. In the shadows, it accumulates, waiting for me to falter, building its mite-ridden legion.

Every room of my home is a battlefield.

The kitchen burgeons with self-indulgent villains. As I step onto the Linoleum, it provokes me, flagrantly flaunting every splatter and crumb. The Dirty Dishes breed on the counter. Yet the clean ones hide, discreetly tucked away in cupboards. But not the Dirty Dishes, they simply wait by the ‘pool’ for me to massage the food off their porcelain skins. In the corner the Garbage Can, always protected by its liner, somehow still manages to attract the nastiest of odors. Mystery liquids collect inside it, inundating the house with toxic gases.

But the most maniacal of household hooligans is both devious and ubiquitous, manipulating the best of my intentions. The Clutter is everywhere. Often, it can be hard to tell if an item is part of the Clutter or if it is something more important: perhaps a bill, a coupon or a progress report. If I wait too long to decide they will multiply.

Worst of all I am betrayed by my own children’s unwitting allegiance to Dirty. Their loyalty is most apparent in their bedrooms. Items discovered and treasured–if only for a moment–are hoarded there. Their collections of random artifacts: paper clips, stones, crumpled leaves, wrappers, shells, dried-up snails and other knick-knacks have formed a bond of profane chaos. In the wee hours of the morning I imagine these baubles striking alliances with the Dust, becoming eager accomplices to Dirty’s work.

As toddlers, my children brought two of the most unholy warriors into the fray. The most depraved warlords of house: the Pee-Pee and the Poo-Poo. Walking by my son’s room, the Pee-Pee or the Poo-Poo (or both, as they often travel together) would waft evil tendrils at my nose. The hunt would begin. Of course they would not be in a diaper or the toilet. Oh no! Following their vapor trail, I would find these two consorting in the Lego box, taking a cat nap on the carpet, or crouched for attack in the closet. These days though, these foul foes are confined to one room: the most dangerous of all battlefields.

The most active frontline of our home is the Bathroom. Here the little black hairs taunt me, spending their last moments curled in defiance on the tiles. The dribbles from misaligned toilet adventures whirl up their pungent, yellow reek. The mirror languishes behind water spots and toothpaste splashes, as the toilet revels in its ring-around-the-collar.

In cacophony, the legion of Dirty calls out to me:

“Go ahead and clean, we’ll just infiltrate again soon. You shall never defeat us!”

Deep down I know it’s true. Here and there I win small victories. They are short-lived, but divine: a freshly vacuumed carpet, a pristine bathroom mirror. Sometimes in the still moments, when the house has just been cleaned I relax, kick my feet up and sip some tea. These are the moments I must remember during the dark times, when I’m dug in, in a swirl of dust, scouring away.

Yet no matter how many battles I win, it comes to this: I will never defeat Dirty for good. So if you ever visit, please know Dirty and I have reached a truce. The battles are fewer now. And as much as it may irk me, I know someday when I’m old, I will not regret my decision to fill my hours with those I love, rather than constantly battling an enemy whom I can never truly defeat.

 

On March 6th, two years ago, I started this here blog thang. But truly what I did was commit to my dream of becoming a writer. And this March 6th I totally forgot to post something to celebrate. Doh!

To those of you who have read my posts I thank you from the deepest part of my soul. One of my greatest joys in life is to connect with other people. I hope that you’ve been entertained and inspired by some of the things in this blog.

My purpose in this project was and is to be honest about the process of pursuing one’s dreams. Too often we see the successful folks put on a pedestal and we think perhaps we just don’t have what it takes to get there. And while, yes, I’m still not a best-selling author (yet), I am on my way. (And I’ve had some great victories this year [rec’d the UCLA X Writers’ Program Scholarship & I’m nearly done with my UCLA X certificate program]).

This post is pretty unpolished and unedited. But if you can look past that, what I want you to know is this: If you commit to your dreams, it may push you harder than you’ve ever been challenged before. You will feel like giving up, like you’ll never be any good. You will feel the pressures of money and family, friends and obligations threatening to overtake your dream. But even if you can just whittle out ten minutes a day for your dream, do it. It is insanely fulfilling to know you’re actively working on your dream.

Our goals can often seem enormous and unattainable. But take some time (and this is a reminder for me too) to block out all the noise and just imagine where you want to be. Be like a child, if only for a few moments every day. Notice the beauty, wonder and possibility that exists when we don’t put our dirty human hands all over it.

I haven’t been published in a literary journal yet, but I’m working on it. 😉 In the meantime I wanted to give you a present.

A Thank You for being among my first readers:

This is a flash fiction piece I did for a contest that I did not win. I still think it’s worthy of a read, even if perhaps it isn’t perfect. I hope you enjoy it.

{  “Iris” (click here to read)  }

original photo by Vivian Maier

original photo by Vivian Maier

The impropriety, Bill sniffed, that guy needs to get his woman under control. He glanced at Iris as they made their evening stroll down Michigan Avenue to the L. To him it appeared that she barely registered the couple arguing outside the bank. She hadn’t even turned her head. He figured that was good, that she was probably thinking about the bed-skirt she had just ordered from Sears. Why a bed needed a skirt though, he did not know.
Bill’s wingtips crunched on the wet sidewalk, in rhythm with the dull slap of Iris’ flats. He liked the sound of synchrony.

At least she’s speaking up, thought Iris as they approached the arguing couple. She didn’t think it would do much good, but she felt for the woman. For an instant, she admired the woman’s baby-blue raincoat and noticed how it complimented her copper hair and angry eyes. Given the man’s suit, she assumed he had probably squandered the couple’s money. Iris thought of the jar of cash hidden under her own marital bed. Bill would never look there. He would never make the bed. She let out a snicker, quickly covering it with her hand. Bill didn’t notice.

Bill noticed the redhead’s crimson lips and long stems. Never make a pretty woman your wife, he thought. But guilt pricked him. He had to admit Iris was pretty, but in a more sensible way, with her long chestnut hair and modest makeup. She was the kind of woman who makes a good wife.

The man loomed over the redhead; his arms on either side of her against the stone wall of the bank. The redhead’s face contorted, as if she were yelling at him, but her voice was barely audible.

“How could you?” she said, like air from a punctured tire.

Iris’ foot slipped on the wet cement. She lurched. Bill reached for her, but she recovered her own footing.

“Thank you dear.”

Iris wondered what the man had done to the redhead. It seemed to be something so bad that the woman couldn’t wait for the privacy of home. She wondered if perhaps it had just been the last in a series of unkindnesses. Or perhaps the woman had just reached her breaking point. Iris knew she would soon reach hers. But she told herself, not until the day her degree was finished and her cash jar was full. She would not yell at Bill on the street. She would handle Bill differently.

Leaving the arguing couple behind, Bill’s thoughts turned to supper.

“Are we having your famous meatloaf tonight, dear?”

Iris nodded as a crooked smile crept across her sensible face.

 

(This piece was created from a prompt. The goal was to tell a story based on the exquisite Vivian Maier photo that appears above).

Another Rejection. The third that week. It came with a one liner of feedback (a rarity):

“Your work is stronger when relaying experience and specifics as opposed to relying too heavily at times on bromides.”

I paused. I was being rejected by a word I had to look up. Some writer I was.

You probably know the word, but just in case:
Bromidenoun
a trite and unoriginal idea or remark, typically intended to soothe or placate.
“feel-good bromides create the illusion of problem solving”
or
a statement that is intended to make people feel happier or calmer but that is not original or effective

Ouch. Of course my first inclination was self-flagellation, both for apparently having lackluster ideas AND for having to look the damn word up.

The bitter pill of Rejection is a common subject in the writing world. I used to find it boring. That is, until I started swallowing those pills wholesale.  I’ve tried my best to steel myself, but sometimes it just gets to me. When I thought of the hours I had put in to applying for and submitting my work, over and over, to publications and fellowships, I wondered if I would ever hear a “yes!”

Then I thought about my work, the pieces I submitted.  Maybe the feedback is true, or maybe it isn’t. It sure didn’t feel good to have something I’ve spent a lot of time on, laboring over, crying over and bleeding on the page–equated to trite platitudes. As a new(ish) writer I’ve struggled with a lot of self-doubt, a little of which is warranted.  It can be hard to know which criticism to listen to and which to ignore.

In those moments, after I freak out,  I have a few go-to moves:

  1. I ask the opinion of someone I trust and respect, someone who will be honest with me, and “gets” me too.
  2. I take a moment to pay attention to my gut–is there a grain of truth to the criticism, or not? How much of it will I own?
  3. I remind myself that no matter how compelled I am to be perfect, my work doesn’t have to be 100% perfect to be valuable. Just because my work is rejected doesn’t mean I’m a reject. Nearly every successful person’s path was paved in failures. It actually means I’m on the right track.
  4. Take a time out. Sometimes it’s best to just get some time from the piece. There’s a magic that happens off the page, in your mind.
  5. There’s always a lesson to learn: whether it’s improving on my own work, or learning when to brush off unwarranted criticism and trust my own judgment.
  6. Ask myself what I can be grateful for. Even if my work is being rejected, it’s being read. And that’s miles ahead of where I was years ago when I was only playing at becoming a legit writer.

I know a lot more rejection may come. Some likely to be more harsh. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop, or even slow down. It means I’ll keep going, improving, clinging tighter to what rings true and finding my own footing.

There will be moments in writing, and in life, where some don’t pick up what I’m laying down. That’s okay.  I know there are others like me–people who will get something out of my writing. Ultimately that’s what it’s really about anyway–not recognition, money or status, but connecting with other human beings, making something of this life.

So I’ll keep writing and pitching my work and one of these days it will find its place. Things will fall in as they are meant to. In the meantime, its my job to keep doing the work of it.
Keep on going friends!
Swallow those bitter pills of rejection and shit ’em out, taking only what you choose from it.

I am reading Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please right now [love]. I especially enjoyed the preface, entitled “Writing is Hard: a Preface.”

amy-poehler-yespleaseThis year more than others I’m intimately aware of that statement. Writing a book is a bitch, but one that is worth it.  The thing is it’s not about the result–it’s about the work. There is beauty, bloody guts and somehow magic in it. And when you are doing something you love, even when it’s hard, it fulfills like nothing else.

Here are some words, better than what I have for you, from Amy Poehler’s preface:

“So what do I do? What do we do? How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? How do we drag ourselves through the muck when our brain is telling us youaredumbandyouwillneverfinishandnoonecaresanditistimeyoustop?

Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. You may still hear the brain and all the shitty things it is saying to you, but it will be muffled, and just the fact that it is not in your head anymore will make things seem clearer. And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.

So here we go, you and me. Because what else are we going to do? Say no? Say no to an opportunity that may be slightly out of our comfort zone? Quiet our voice because we are worried it is not perfect? I believe great people do things before they are ready…”

Keep it up my friends! Find that thing you believe in doing and do the hell out of it! Happy New Year.  Here’s to many wonderful years to all of us!