Getting Rejected by Agents, Believing in Yourself and Not. Giving. Up.

Writing can be a lot of fun.  The world of publishing isn’t.  Well, not all the time.  Definitely not while you’re trying to get into it.  I guess any meaningful journey feels significantly lacking in anything vaguely resembling fulfillment now and then.

I’m looking for agents, so my book can be a real live one as well as an ebook.  Finding and  researching them to make sure they’re right for me is laborious and time consuming, but it’s exciting when I hit on one who seems perfect.  Which I did two days ago.  Daniel Lazar works for a New York agency, Writer’s House, and he seems straightforward, has a sense of humor and a big heart.

His bio blurb says “If you think your pages can make me hold my breath or miss my subway stop or even laugh out loud…”  I like that.  So I sent him my proposal – which I’ve worked on for weeks, editing, re-editing, thinking it’s just fine then realizing it’s not, throwing it out, starting again.  If I still worked on a typewriter my room would be littered with crumpled up rejects.

People say don’t invest in outcomes, don’t get attached.  What a lot of crap.  It’s impossible to write a book and not hope that the world will love and respect it and you’ll sell millions of copies and make it to the New York Best Seller list.  People who don’t let themselves have that dream are scared of disappointment so they shut it down.

Today I understand them a little better, although I still think it’s half living.  I got an email from Daniel.  So soon!  All agents say you’ll only hear from them if they’re interested.  My heart leapt – he loved my proposal and me, he wants to read the whole book, this is it, I’m on my way, New York here I come!  Heart thudding I opened the email.

It was from his assistant.  “Daniel asked me to reply…your project does not seem right…”.  Damn.  It’s like a mini-death, there’s no way I could prepare for how heavy my heart feels, and all the crucifyingly criticial crap that comes flooding into my head.  About my book being not good enough for a reputable agency, me being a ridiculously lousy writer, a dreamer without a hope in hell of ever succeeding…

But now I don’t feel so bad.  Daniel, divine as he is, obviously isn’t the right agent for me.  It doesn’t mean there isn’t one out there somewhere.  There must be.  Perhaps we’re moving towards each other already in ways neither of us is aware.  That’s how life works.  All I can do is play my part.  I’ve already sent to a bunch of other agents, and I’ll carry on sending to some every day.

I’m getting together with SEO Afficionado Vernon Chalmers on Friday to discuss my marketing strategy.  I’ve nearly finished the thriller script and I’ve started on the crime novel.  I’m going to carry on, no matter what, and hope like hell my fate isn’t like Van Gogh’s.  I might go mad and end up penniless – but I’m familiar with both those states so it doesn’t bother me too much.  At least I shan’t lose one of my ears.  Ha.

Getting your work into the world can be hard.  Some people are born into an environment that predisposes them to success, but many aren’t and part of the journey is developing a belief in yourself and your work.  The only way that belief can grow is through getting rejected, and learning not to give authority to the messages in your head that say the rejection means you aren’t any good.

The real enemy isn’t the world, or agents or publishers, it’s in your own head.  Conquering it is a fight, it’s one of the hardest things in the world.  But it’s the good fight, and the better you get at it, the more you stand behind yourself deep in your heart.  That’s when the world starts responding to you, duh.  There’s no way past the impasse but through it.  And it’s indisputable that you can only make it onto the list of people who might succeed if you don’t give up.

People Who Succeeded Who Were Predicted To Fail

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”   Samuel Beckett

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln went to war a captain and returned a private. Afterwards, he was a failure as a businessman. As a lawyer in Springfield, he was too impractical and temperamental to be a success.

He turned to politics and was defeated in his first try for the legislature, again defeated in his first attempt to be nominated for congress, defeated in his application to be commissioner of the General Land Office, defeated in the senatorial election of 1854, defeated in his efforts for the vice-presidency in 1856, and defeated in the senatorial election of 1858.

At about that time, he wrote in a letter to a friend, “I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth.”

Winston Churchill failed sixth grade. He was subsequently defeated in every election for public office until he became Prime Minister at the age of 62. He later wrote, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never, Never, Never, Never give up.” (his capitals)

Sigmund Freud was booed from the podium when he first presented his ideas to the scientific community of Europe. He returned to his office and kept on writing.

Robert Sternberg received a C in his first college introductory-psychology class. His teacher commented that “there was a famous Sternberg in psychology and it was obvious there would not be another.” Three years later Sternberg graduated with honors from Stanford University with exceptional distinction in psychology, summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa. In 2002, he became President of the American Psychological Association.

Charles Darwin gave up a medical career and was told by his father, “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs and rat catching.” In his autobiography, Darwin wrote, “I was considered by all my masters and my father, a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard of intellect.”

Thomas Edison’s teachers said he was “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for being “non-productive.” As an inventor, Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?” Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”  Confucius

(from: http://www.des.emory.edu/mfp/efficacynotgiveup.html)

You Don’t Ever Have To Give Up On Your Dreams

When I long for something and no matter how hard I try it doesn’t come to me, it’s so easy to see that as evidence that I’ve got my head in the clouds, that I’m unrealistic in my dreams.  It’s easy to give up.   But what I interpret as hard evidence isn’t an accurate representation of ultimate truth – it just represents what I can see.

What about all the things I can’t see, all the facts I haven’t taken into consideration?  All the things which will contribute to my success which might actually have been set in motion already – and which I don’t know about yet?

Take J.K. Rowling before she was published.  She was rejected – and depressed about her life, at a real low point.  She didn’t consciously believe anything good could happen.  All the evidence she could see showed that success wasn’t going to happen for her.  The publishers who rejected her said “no market for this”.  Part of her believed it, but no matter how low she was, she couldn’t stop herself hoping.

Even at the moment that one of the publisher’s employees picked up her manuscript off a pile  – the moment that things had been set in motion irrevocably – nobody else knew, and J.K. didn’t either.  At that point, when the reality of her future success was in the making, “evidence” still pointed to her failing.

We often don’t allow ourselves to contemplate our possible success because we’re so hell-bent on believing the “evidence” of our non-success.   But “evidence” is about what’s happened, it’s not about the future.  If we take it as prediction of what’s going to happen, we give up.  We can’t afford to.  And that time of not giving up is the most important time of all – it’s when we sow the seeds of our conviction that our dream is meaningful and possible.

Maybe that’s the secret element that actually makes dreams come true.  Something that defies logic and can’t be seen or touched.

It’s a choice.  The provocation to give up is often huge; there are plenty of times when all evidence seems to be pointing to the impossibility of dreams coming true, when fear is on the prowl and the inner spoiler is a constant pop-up – you’re ridiculous, you’re pathetic, it’s  too late for you, your dreams are way out of your league, look at where you are now – how can you think you’ll ever get to where you want to be….

If you give that spoiler authority you might as well just jump off a cliff.  Personally, I don’t blind myself to the reality of my current situation, but I can’t see into the future and I refuse to believe that where I am right now is an indication of it.   I prefer to acknowledge that there might be a lot that’s already in motion that I can’t see.

Of all my dreams, the two most important to me are to get my book onto the world stage and to get me and my voice onto a stage too.  Even if every person in the world said to me “you can’t do it” I wouldn’t give up.   Because I’d remember that once upon a time every person in the world thought the world was flat.  One man knew it was round.  He was the one who was right.

I don’t want to ever give up and I don’t have to.  Just have to keep on plugging away.  It’s the journey that counts anyway, it’s where all the fun is, all the fulfillment.  Imagine throwing that all away.

The Secret of Success

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a formula for success.  Different categories of it – how to be a billionaire, how to have the perfect marriage, how to be perfectly happy, how to become President of Wherever and rule the world, how to write a best-seller, how to make it in whatever way you want to make it.

Plenty of people have written books on the subject, but as my nephew pointed out the other night, they’re not doing it because they believe they’ve found the ultimate secret and they want to help people, they’re doing it because they want to be successful how-to-be-successful authors.  It’s a good idea, mind you, I think I’ll give it try.

I resist the idea of formulae, because they’re always formed by outsiders.  Somebody once said that Sylvester Stalone got Rocky accepted because of the brilliant way he pitched it. So they figured if you wrote your pitch in the exactly the same way as Stalone wrote his for Rocky, you’d be successful.  Scores of people have analyzed his pitch letter, hoping to extract the secret.  Nobody’s succeeded yet.

It seems to me that successful people have one thing in common.  They don’t give up.  Sometimes success comes quite easily for a million reasons, sometimes it comes later.  It never comes to people who stop trying.  I saw a guy from Hollywood speak about this and he said the thing about persistence is that it works because a lot of your competition falls away, they give up.

It’s not just about that, though.  I think it’s about getting stronger and stronger within yourself that whatever you’re doing is okay.  Every time somebody rejects you or your work, you’ve got the option of believing them when they say you and it are no good, or standing up for yourself.  The more you do it, the more authority you develop.

The more authority you develop the more people start believing that you and your work are worth something.  In the end something gives.  If it’s not you, it’s got to be them!

For another genius interpretation on the secret of success, click here

Meryl Streep, Robert de Niro, Susan Sarandon, Keanu Reeves, Bill Nighy on Rejection and Not Giving Up

I watched a group of American actors talk last night about auditions.  It was a real eye opener.  They had all achieved great success, and they all said auditions were a nightmare, and that for every role they did get they had often had anything from 30-50 rejections.  Year after year after year.  Hard to imagine now, isn’t it?  Imagine not recognizing the talent of any of these great actors.

Susan Sarandon said  you’re acting with somebody who’s just reading a part and can’t act, into a vacuum, and nobody gives you any feedback, it’s hideous.  And all the rejections were very hard to take.  For Bill Nighy, they were torturous and traumatic.  He said he was very pleased to be older now and to be able to pick his roles, not to have to do auditions any more.

I loved Meryl Streep’s response – that you can’t make people love you.  All you can do is do your best.  And if don’t get the part you know that they’ve lost out on your great interpretation of the role.  But you can’t take it – any of it – personally.

Robert de Niro said just be yourself.  Don’t try to impress anybody, because you’ll either get the role or you won’t, and there’s nothing you can do to change that.  If you’re just yourself you have the best chance, because nothing is getting in the way of what you can really do.  I liked that.  No pretense.

Keanu Reeves – looking quite delicious I have to say – said it’s daunting and demoralizing.  You go to an audition prepared, vulnerable, full of hope.  You often get nothing back in return, and it’s terribly painful.   But, he said, it’s also an opportunity.  He didn’t elaborate, but somebody else had said you come away from these painful experiences and you’re really forced to decide how passionate you are about acting, whether you’re willing to go through the pain.  I imagined  that’s what Keanu Reeves had in mind.  The painful experience helps you make your choice.

All of these unpretentious people have done great things, played amazing roles, directed wonderful films.  I don’t get to see them just being real too often, I suppose because interviewers usually ask such dumb questions.  There’s so much media crap about celebrities, most of it utterly untrue.  The reality of their lives, what they have to go through to achieve, how long it’s taken them, passes us by.

In the mass portrayal of a wildly over-permissive world of seductive glitz and glamor, it’s easy to forget that that world is actually inhabited by ordinary, real people, some of them with huge courage who have been through hell to get to where they are.  One thing the actors and actresses  I saw last night all had in common.  They didn’t want to do anything else.  Well, two things.  They didn’t give up, in the face of tons and tons and tons of rejection.

It gave me courage.   You can’t take on other people’s ideas of what’s the right thing to do, can’t take on their rejection or their criticism.  You have to chart your course, keep revisiting it to make sure it feels right, that it is actually where your heart and soul are pulling you.  And you just can’t give up.  You’ll have plenty of people saying you’re not being sensible, it can’t happen for you, you should do it this way, you should do it that way.  How do they know?  Truth is, they don’t.  You’re the one who knows.  You’re the one with the mission.

4th of July – Be Independent of Gloom and Doom

For an explanation of this “donate” button, click here

Wrestling with “I’m an idiot today” and continual barrage of gloom and doom “what ifs”.  Throat tight, voice constricted, images of people laughing at me – or worse, feeling sorry for me.  Shame, she really thought she could do it, isn’t she pathetic? Since there was nobody in my apartment but me, clearly the images were reflection of insane mind.   The best I could do was say “go to hell” and carry on with those vocal exercises anyway.  After a while everything loosened up.

Sang “They All Laughed”.  They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round.   They all laughed when Edison recorded sound.   They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother, when they said that man could fly.  They told Marconi wireless was a phony, it’s the same old cry.   They laughed at me wanting you, said I was reaching for the moon, but oh you came through.  Now they’ll have to change their tune… It’s a love song, but it applies to dreams also and all the negative things people and your own mind tell you.

Last night I saw a documentary about a woman who set sail across the Pacific with her fiancé to deliver a boat to Hawaii.  It was hurricane season but they crossed their fingers and did it anyway – for $10,000.  Within days a big storm started building in their path.  They could have turned back but didn’t. Then it was too late and they hit the eye of the hurricane.   No turning back now.  He sent her below decks.   She was knocked out.  When she came to, the storm was over but the boat was a wreck.

In shock, badly bruised and cut, she stumbled up on deck.  He was gone.  She was in the middle of the Pacific with barely enough food and water.  Sails shredded, no radio, no engine.  During the next 22 days she rigged a small sail and navigated towards Hawaii using a sextant, knowing if she missed she’d run out of food and water.  Terrorized, grieving, totally alone, she nearly lost her mind.

One day, after a month, she spied land in the distance!   A plane flew over, so close she could see the pilot.  She sent up a flare, screamed and shouted.  He didn’t see her.  Clouds  descended, and hid the land.  She thought she’d gone mad and was hallucinating.  She went and got a rifle, put it into her mouth, tasting the metal.  But she couldn’t do it.  The clouds cleared again, and there was Hawaii.

The darkest hour is just before dawn.  Your demons will tell you there’s no hope.  They seem very logical and believable.  People might even tell you the same thing.  You can listen to them if you want, but it’s your funeral then.  You don’t have to give up.  You can’t see what’s round the corner.   Shut the door on people and demons with their what-ifs, be independent of them.   Get out and do your thing anyway.

And happy 4th of July, America!

You don’t have to give up

My brain suddenly feels as if it’s been on verbal overload for too long.  There was a time when I couldn’t articulate, and the pressure of all the things I wanted to express was unbearable.   Gradually I found the spigot – and it’s been such a release to express myself that I haven’t been able to imagine a time when I wouldn’t have anything to say.    Or that I wouldn’t want to say anything.

I used to be locked in the prison of my silence, my inability to converse, to express.   Suddenly, today, I welcome my silence, I’m sick of verbalizing.

But before I let myself be embraced by it, I just want to say something about not giving up!

When I long for something and no matter how hard I try it doesn’t come to me, that’s not a sign that I should “get realistic” and give up on the dream.   If anything it’s a sign that I doubt my capacity to achieve my dream/s.  When things don’t work, it’s so easy to see that as evidence that I’ve got my head in the clouds, that I’m unrealistic.  It’s easy to give up.   But what I interpret as hard evidence may not be an accurate representation of ultimate truth – it just represents what I can see – which is what’s happened so far – and I don’t even see everything that’s contributed to that.

There’s a big difference.

What about all the things I can’t see, all the facts I haven’t taken into consideration?  All the things which will contribute to my success which might actually have  been set in motion already – and which I don’t know about yet?  How many times do people talk about a lucky break?  They didn’t know it was about to happen.  Take J.K. Rowling before she was published.  She was rejected – and pretty depressed about her life in fact.  She was at a real low point.  She didn’t consciously believe anything good could happen, but she didn’t give up, didn’t withdraw her book from the publishers she’d sent it to.

All the evidence that she could see showed that success wasn’t going to happen for her.  I’m quite sure the publishers who rejected her said “no market for this”.  Part of her believed it, but not enough to write to the publishers and say “okay I give up, send my manuscript back to me”.  No matter how low she was, I doubt she could stop herself hoping.  Nobody in the world knew success was coming her way.  The moment that one of the publisher’s employees picked up her manuscript off a pile  – the moment that things had been set in motion irrevocably – nobody else knew, and J.K. didn’t either.  So even at that point, when the reality of her future success was in the making, “evidence” pointed to her never being successful.

We often don’t allow ourselves to contemplate our possible success because we’re so hell-bent on believing the “evidence” of our non-success.   But “evidence” is about what’s happened, it’s not about the future.

The time of wanting to give up could be the most important time of all – could be when I sow the seeds of my conviction that my dream is meaningful and possible.   Maybe I become aware of them when I experience rejection, and I sow them with my refusal to give up.  Somebody came out here from Hollywood once; I saw him saying in an interview “doesn’t matter how far-fetched your dreams might seem, if you don’t give up, the competition drops away, you’re the one left standing, because most people give up”.  It’s got to be about what they choose to believe.

It’s a choice.  The whole world can be against me (in truth or in my perception), but I don’t have to give up if I don’t want to.  And if I don’t, how much does that contribute to my dream or desire coming to fruition?   I’ve never seen anybody who’s stayed the course say they achieved success finally by giving up and accepting that they had to be “realistic” when things weren’t going well!

The provocation to give up is often huge; there are plenty of times when all evidence seems to be pointing to the impossibility of any of my dreams coming true, when fear is on the prowl and my inner spoiler is a constant pop-up – you’re ridiculous, you’re pathetic, it’s far too late for you, your dreams are way out of your league, look at where you are now – how can you think you’ll ever get to where you want to be, blah blah blah.

Today I can see clearly that I don’t have to give too much authority to the “evidence”, don’t have to give up.  I don’t know how it can happen that I can get out of this pit, have a good income without compromising myself, own my own house, a grand piano, a decent car, wear Armani, travel, experience the stimulation I crave, become a star.  Don’t know how I can do any of it, from the small stuff to the big stuff.

The wherewithal – even within myself – doesn’t seem anywhere within my grasp.  All evidence points to the probability that I won’t attain any of my dreams, that I’m not destined to do so, that I’m not even capable of becoming financially independent, generating money for rent and food let alone for the more exciting things.

All I can say is I’m not in denial about what’s real now, I’m not blinding myself to the reality of my current situation, but I  can’t see into the future and today I’m not going to believe that it is written by where I am now.   I prefer to acknowledge that there might be a lot that’s already in motion that I can’t see, and that the belief I choose has a real part to play.

Today I can make the choice not to give up.  I don’t have to.

Even if every person in the world said to me “you can’t do it” I wouldn’t give up.   Because I’d remember that once upon a time every person in the world thought the world was flat.  One man knew it was round.  He was the one who was right.  I know I’ve said this a thousand times already.   I’ll say it as many times as I have to to keep myself participating.

Now I’m going to embrace my silence while I have my breakfast of ciabatta toast and coffee.  Yum.  Does ciabatta have one “t” or two?