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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

How do you pluck a chicken?

I have a confession to make.

I am a great big fat chicken.

The reason I am confessing my sin today is that I finally decided to do something about it. Of course, I'm such a big fat chicken that I can't get rid of my chickenness all at once. So I'm doing it the old fashioned way.

One feather at a time.

A few days ago, while working on the great clean out my office and find the missing tax folder project, I came across a slew of rejection letters. And contest entries. All testimony to my great writing suckage. And to the fact that I almost, but not quite, had it. "While the story and writing had great promise, blah blah blah blah blah blah... we are sorry to inform you that because of the aforementioned reasons, we are opting not to publish this book. We would, however, be pleased to consider another synopsis."

And then there were the contest entries... "You're such a fabulous writer, I don't know why you're not published." Um, you obviously didn't get the memo from the editors that I did. Even better, same contest, same manuscript even, a less polite version of "don't quit the day job." Really. Or, my favorite (on an inspirational manuscript): "you need to make this sexier." And on the same line of the same manuscript, "this is way too sexy and risque for the inspirational market."

As I pawed through this stash of writing shame, I realized that I used to submit with wild abandon. I'd enter contests, send out manuscripts, and throw it all out for the world to see. These days, not so much.

For a long time, I've been justifying my lack of submissions with my favorite badge of honor, "I have an agent. I submit to him. He submits to publishers. So there."

A while back, one of my CPs made a comment about me entering the Genesis contest. What? Me? Enter a contest? Why would I do that? I have an agent. The publishers I want to read my work are reading my work. Plus, I'm broke. So yeah, nice idea. Not for me.

But as I pawed through the old files, reading rejection letters and comments from contests I did not fare well in, I started to think. Granted, I have an agent, so I no longer need to flood the universe with my submissions. But there's other stuff I could submit, like articles, which was something el agento suggested I do even before he became my agent. I've done a few. Just enough to say, "see, I did it," but certainly not with the abandon I used to have in sending it out there, believing that this one would be it.

My ego would tell you it's because I've gotten smarter. I've learned to study the market. Hone my craft. Submit wisely.

Does anyone else smell a lot of BS?

Sitting on my office floor, surrounded by dust and evidence that I've been pursuing a dream for a really long time with seemingly little show for it, I had to own up to the fact that the truth is, I'm a big fat chicken. I'm tired of having holes blown in my ego. I'm tired of working as hard as I know how and being told that my best is simply not good enough. I'm tired of wondering if I'm actually not doing my best because I'm afraid that it still won't be good enough. I'm scared to keep getting the feedback that I still can't cut it.

I stopped taking risks. I started only submitting where it was safe. I stopped entering contests. I wrote book after book and let them sit in a file on my computer where no one would read them.

I started writing as a child because no one heard me. I was the loud obnoxious kid who never felt like anyone heard anything underneath my words. I was alone and scared and created worlds where people were able to survive the toughest odds and heartbreaking challenges. I wanted to believe there was something better.

In college, I stopped writing. Too many people told me I wasn't nearly as smart as I thought I was. They said I wasn't as talented as I'd always been led to believe. And they made my life a living hell. When I finally chose to break free from their influence, I began writing again. Small things. Secret things. Things I never dared share with anyone for fear of having it taken away again. And I promised myself, one day, I'd write a book.

I wrote that book. And lots of others. I finally found the courage to share my dream. I realized that as an adult, I wrote for a lot of the same reasons I wrote as a child, except for one key difference. I learned that a lot of people feel the same things I do, and they need the same hope I do. One of the writers I admire, Lisa Samson, says that she writes "so that people will know they're not alone." When I read that, I knew at the very core, that's why I write too.

It totally sucks to be rejected. And I'm still really bummed that a few good stories (at least I think they are) didn't make it. Because I think they have things that will speak to the hearts of others and help heal something that's hurting inside. Fortunately, I've got a lot of other stories to tell. A lot of other things I want to say that I'm not so good at saying in any other way. But my stories can't help anyone if I don't have the courage to share them.

So even though I really didn't have the money, my agent has the book already, and it probably will not change much in my writing career...

I entered the Genesis.

Not because I care about the prestige of winning. Not because I hope it'll finally get me noticed. Not because I need additional connections in the industry. But because I have to stop being a chicken.

This doesn't end my battle with chickenness. Because there are still a lot of things I'm scared to do. Scared to write. Scared to submit. But if my fear wins, then so does evil. So I'm going to reach in, and find those chicken feathers, and pluck every last one of them out.


Jana said...

Kuddos to you, sweetie, for becoming brave again. And best wishes that the contest has stellar results. :-)

a mom in the 'burbs said...

Thanks for sharing this! I am just starting out on my writing journey and it is a good reminder to not give up. I will have far more rejections then acceptances. I need to face that and act accordingly--by submitting more!

Okay, I'll work on the recycling article pitch today...

RumorsOfGlory said...

What keeps me going is what Barbara Kingsolver says, "Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer."

Robbie Iobst said...

Danica, YES!!! I love this post so much because I relate to it so much. I'm with you girl!!! ONE FEATHER AT A TIME! yay.

Megan said...

What a brave, inspiring and clever post! Thank you for sharing!!

Kay Day said...

I'm scared, too. And I haven't been rejected at all yet!