(Hello chum! My name is Jennifer – an aspiring YA author on a huge learning curve! Follow me for ramblings and general observations.)
My, my I have had a busy week!
Indeed it is with strength that I allow myself to sit still with my own pain and fear, entirely focused on those two emotions alone. I am sure that it is very rare that someone will step into the fire as willingly as I have done over the past three days, and for that I’m proud.
Tuesday morning I met my first literary editor – a woman of wicked talent. I had not even realized until the meeting was over how much I had given to the fear of rejection physically and the ransom to which I’d held my body. As you may know, I will never fail to tell the winding and twisting tale of self-love with a belief that one should never doubt their own intuition. And yet, for perhaps a week before this meeting I allowed myself to slip into the dangerous habit of handing control of my moods to a stranger. A talented stranger granted, but a stranger nonetheless.
Let me paint the scene of my debut as a frenzied bottle of coke with a mentos mint inside –
Tuesday was a particularly abysmal day, and due to my early start I got dressed in a dazed state, while I watched the ocean beating against the walls of the shore. I was a collar-and-daisy girl on Tuesday, just like I was a dungarees and plaid girl today. The world’s fear was in my stomach as I thought of all of the truly cruel things which could be said to me. My primary fear of course was that she would tell me that I am an abysmally untalented writer with an ineptitude that stops me even knowing when a new paragraph is necessary.
Sounds trival, right? To me, I was violently ill with these worries several times before I could even stand.
Writing means so much to me that I would do this daily just for a hint of realizing my dream.
I hadn’t yet left my bedroom and I was already shaking with tears springing in my eyes. This kind of weakness is hard to admit as it shows just what’s at stake for me if my writing dreams never come true – a core part of my happiness. There was no form of positive self-talk that was going to be able to walk me to this meeting with genuine bravery. Obviously, there’s only one course of action I learned from my early days on the playground.
I faked it.
Thus, for the next five and a half hours, I gloriously spoke with the charisma I had learned at the hand of my mother, who is always and oh-so-perfectly, herself. I held myself in a state of tightened tension much like a taut rope a trapeze artist might use. (Or more fitting for my fear, a taut role undertakers would use to lower a coffin into the ground. I promise you none of this is an exaggeration.)
The meeting was perfect, and I learned more than I could have imagined whilst being fantastically surrounded by cupcakes and coffee. I was handed blunt and cruel truths – one after the other, until – surprisingly – I began to solidify, rather than melt under the weight of the heavy criticisms that I had assumed would kill me. Indeed, I was told of my strengths, which are vast, and of the acceptance the literary world was likely to offer me after my second and third novel drafts. Hard work was all that was needed. It was all I’d wanted to ever hear, and all I’d ever hoped would be confirmed about my YA novel.
She was firm in her honesty, and I was brave in my resilience. Indeed, I did not seem to need resilience, as I became untouchable by the harsh woundings of what would sell and what simply would not. Oftentimes in the past I considered myself an ice queen as I became detached from an important situation due to fear, but this was entirely different. I was entrenched but knowledgeable in my own raw talent, which I did not need her confirmation to understand.
We stood as mutual in my mind, not expert and amateur. All it took to change the footing upon which I stood from Rocky to powerful was the acceptance that I deserved the respect of a human being. That respect need not be subdivided into published and unpublished, talented and untalented, but simply common to all as ‘The Human Being Experience’.
It is interesting that once you decide they you are a human being long before you are a human being plus flaws, the world bows to your will entirely.
And so it seems that once again what I thought would kill me only served my strength. You might be familiar with the sword of Gryffindor in the ‘Harry Potter’ books. What always peaked my interest with this particular object was that it only ‘took in’ what made it stronger. Piercing a basilisk was only an experience that served to imbue its power, and maintain its strength.
Here is the sentence I feel no shame in admitting;
I felt more powerful than one thousand swords as I watched my editor leave our meeting. Yes I was exhausted and numb, and yes, I was left with much to think about and the extensive knowledge of my flaws. But most importantly, I was left with a sense that even if she had told me that my novel was generic, ridiculous and unlikely to ever be published, I wouldn’t have listened. What is an opinion but just that?
Perhaps you think this makes me foolhardy. Once again, I’ll disagree. There is a ‘relentless’ factor that applies to the level of success one achieves. I’m sure I could plot this relationship on a bell-curve and see the likelihood of success jump when each failure that is overhauled entirely.
I am the level of relentless that gives me the guaranteed knowledge that I can be all that my potential offers. And that potential, I’ll have you know, is boundless.
And so, should I have been reminded once more of the intense difficulty it is to get published in the first place, particularly at my age, I would have only one answer.
Not for me.
No, your doubts and realisms are not for me. Your difficulties and awareness-es are not for me. Your expectations for struggle and ‘bleeding for your dreams’ are not for me.
I am by no means saying that I am a superior being. I am simply nestled in the knowledge that my own abundance of positivity and hard-work make me exempt from the struggles of those who placate their fears with affirmations of ‘What everyone has to go through’.
This is the glorious benefit of having built your own foundation with the very rubble that caused your breakdown in the first place – you never lose control again. I have only had to learn this lesson once for it to resonate; if one goes through a breakdown, it is only for the purposes of a breakthrough.
And so if I could rewind to see that girl wearing mustard and daisies last Tuesday I would watch her wringing her hands and smile. Little does she know the good that is coming, or the power that awaits is much greater than an opinion of another. I would watch her become fearless in the face of the affirmation of her talent, and whisper to her that talent did not form due to a single confirmation of greatness; but from ignoring the confirmation of someone outside herself in the first place.
After my editor had left, I picked up my manuscript, and packed my bag whilst humming to myself. I stopped and touched the small necklace on my chest that had been a close companion from the moments when anxiety and depression lit my bones on fire and made me dance in fear, to now – a day when the Glory Games of publishing began.
I am and was Jen before and after this meeting. Forever steel, forever the sunflower. I buckle and grow on my own terms – all else are merely a mild breeze that tickles my petals for a moment, before I am back to standing tall, entirely and perfectly on my own.