I may be doomed. Here I am, a most impatient person, struggling to succeed in a field that requires an infinite amount of patience.
Laila Ali posted a timely quote today that got me thinking about this.
The road ahead of me may be long. It may be filled with setbacks and discouragement. But somehow, if I want to succeed, I have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It’s astounding how this simple act is sometimes the most difficult thing to do.
When I finished my first publisher-ready novel, I knew acquiring an agent would be difficult. I steeled myself against all the rejection slips to come, remembering that Stephen King, my favorite writer of all time, once needed a railroad spike to hold all of his rejections to the wall. I sent out query letters, and the form replies started to come in. At first, I handled it well. I reminded myself that it was all part of the process. But slowly, over time, the rejections chipped away at my self-confidence, planting a seed of self-doubt. What if I’m wrong? What if I’m not meant to be a writer? What if no one ever asks to see my work? A wonderful friend saw what I was going through, and hired a professional book doctor to look over my manuscript and give it an objective appraisal without my knowledge. My Christmas gift that year was a letter from the book doctor, gushing over how incredible my novel was. At first, I didn’t understand what the letter was, or what it meant. But once I did, I burst into tears. That gift was more than a simple appraisal–my dear friend had given my confidence back to me. And to date, that is one of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
The problem is, though, that confidence–this unwavering belief that we’re on the right path–really has to come from within. As much as that gift was a beautiful thing, as soon as the initial thrill wore off I started doubting the credentials of the book doctor. Was she just saying my novel was fantastic so I’d hire her to edit it? What does she know, anyway?
It’s like that beautiful girl who thinks she’s ugly. Everyone can tell her she’s not. A big shot modeling agency can discover her, and put her face up on hundreds of magazine covers. When she’s interviewed, she tells people that she was an ugly duckling as a child, and everyone laughs, “yeah, sure!” You know what? I believe her.
Staying positive in the face of adversity is tough. Holding the course when you have countless obstacles in your way is an ongoing battle. It takes confidence, it takes guts, but most of all, it takes friends. I don’t care how big your ego is, or how high your self-esteem. All of us need someone to be our biggest fan. Even if we’re not published yet. Even if we haven’t won that title fight, or wrote that award-winning song, or painted that house.
Please share something (or someone) that inspired you when things were tough. Maybe it will help us all through the next dark time.
And in the meantime, thanks for being my “fans”!
Ah yes, I know the feelings that you describe. Being a freelance illustrator at the start of my career, I am indeed well-acquainted with the the intimidation that hangs from the shrouds of mist obscuring the path into the future. I agree with you whole-heartedly about the pricelessness (that doesn’t seem like it should be a word!) of friends. It’s amazing that all it takes is a word of encouragement to make us feel like the oppression of uncertainty has lifted by even a few grams. Dear friends and loved ones with genuine uplifting words can imbue us with Herculean strength. In the glow of their love, the obscurity of the future shrinks to insignificance. It is for THEM and their love that we live. We’ll climb our mountains one step at a time.
Another thought springs to mind too that is relevant to your writing here. I am reminded of the manic intensity of work that I found myself immersed in during the last days of racing to finish the drawings for the Tyrrell’s latest exhibit, to get them in under the wire — which I did, barely! In the sleep-abandoned, crushing immensity of the thick of things, it occurred to me that I still actually enjoyed the work, aside from the pressure. It amazed me and drove home the point that we know we are in the right profession when, despite the madness of the expectations, we still find the actual work itself relaxing and rewarding. I know that you are writing in this entry about the exact opposite of this kiond of situation — the survival of the waiting game — but what I wrung from my experience is that if we live our passion, if we follow our hearts and work on what truly makes us feel happy and fulfilled, then I believe that the enjoyment itself will help us to get through the challenges that life throws into our paths, be they astronomical workloads or the vacuum of impatience. So follow your heart!
Well said, Julius! As always, I value your comments and insight tremendously. Thanks for your post. I am glad someone related to this one, as I wrote it from the heart. All the best!
I know how you feel. I do not have the confidence in my own abilities that maybe I should. It is maybe part of why I am not interested in having my songs published. *I* think they are good, but who knows what other people would think.
Hey there, kungfusinger,
There’s only one way to find out! Everyone has lapses of confidence now and then. That’s when friends, family, and other “fans” can come in handy. The question is – do you believe in yourself, and your songs, the majority of the time? If your answer is yes, and this is something you’d like to take further, consider putting yourself out there, one note at a time.