Some years ago, my daughter and I were having a conversation about what it was she would like to do for the coming year. She's a dancer, and at the time, she was interested in the idea of turning her dancing into a career. She was only 13 at the time, but even then, she knew that if she wanted to go professional, she was going to have to work hard to be the best she could be—and some.
The performing arts are just as competitive as the publishing industry, if not more so.
Anyway, I had received an email from her dance school about auditions for a competition dance team. She had never been part of a competition team, but she was being invited specifically to audition. When I asked her if she was interested, she hummed and hawed for a bit, then she said something that hit a little closer to home than she realized.
"I'm never going to make it if I don't take a risk and put myself out there."
BAM! The fist hit me in the gut, and she never lifted a finger. She was talking about her own dreams and her own aspirations, yet her words carried a message that was powerful.
I have been working on my writing career since she was really little. I gave up a career as a research scientist in pursuit of this writer's life. My daughter has grown up watching me work hard on my writing skills, honing my craft. She has seen the tears of self-doubt and she has witnessed my meltdowns. But she has also seen me persevere.
What she didn't see was the insecurity in my own writing skills. I would write lots of stories, but for some reason, I never thought they were good enough to share with others outside of my small writing circle. I wasn't putting myself "out there".
Here I was working as an editor, helping other writers achieve their dreams, helping them develop their own writing voice and get published, but I was terrified of taking the next step myself.
Yet, a 13-year-old girl innately knew a truth that I was ignoring.
You have to risk rejection if you want success.
As writers, we see this message time and time again in the various success stories of J. K. Rowling, Stephen King, and any other highly successful writers who have had hundreds, if not thousands, of rejections. I even remember seeing Christie Craig with her suitcase of rejection letters, and how it rained those negative slips of paper (except the ones her cat had peed on—rejection letters that she couldn't bring herself to get rid of, because they told a story of her journey). But for whatever reason, it was the words out of the mouth of a babe that finally hit home where no other words had.
I'm confident my daughter had learned the lesson from me. It's likely something that I had said to her on numerous occasions, but as parents, we are brilliant at dishing out the words of wisdom that we selectively ignore. And when our children parrot them back to us…
It took a long time, but since then, I've managed to shed off the self-doubt monster long enough to actually write a kick-ass query and send it off to multiple agents. I'm still in the slush and still on the hunt for that one acceptance, still seeing those rejection letters.
But I'm risking rejection, embracing it, because I'm putting myself out there.