Tag Archives: fear


The Five Stages of Rejection

Just when I thought I was getting better at this rejection thing, I got a doozy of a letter last week. Granted, it came on a day when I was already feeling too much angst over real life issues. I like to think I’m emotionally stable about these things, but I was reminded that even a robotic INTJ like myself can have hurt feelings sometimes.


Before I tell you about my rejection, I ought to tell you that the story I sent was brilliant. It’s a strangely surreal tale of a woman being reunited with her husband during a near-death experience. One of my beta-readers told me that it was most likely her favorite thing she had ever read. I thought the story was perfect, and I was pretty proud of it. So when that email came through, I thought, “This is it. This is my first acceptance.”

When I started reading and found out it was a form rejection, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Then I read further to the editor’s personal comment and read the words, “it didn’t work for me.” What? I sat there in shock for several minutes, wondering if perhaps they had read the wrong story, or perhaps they sent the wrong letter.


The shock didn’t last too long. My second move was to email my friend and tell her the story had been rejected. I won’t write the exact words here, but there was quite a lot of name-calling involved over this bastard editor who couldn’t understand the brilliance of my story. It’s strange. All my rejections for my other stories had been so kind and positive, but something about that phrase, “it didn’t work for me” stung. It took me back to my college days of piano juries, when I had played my heart out on a piece and a harsh instructor wrote just two words on my evaluation: “Nice try.”


My next move was to head over to Google Plus for some sympathy. I knew my friends there would help me get over this rejection. But one of the first comments was, “As an editor, I don’t take rejections personally. If it doesn’t work for me, it doesn’t work.” Now, I’m all about preaching the “don’t take it personally” line, but this one was just WRONG.

do not want

I shot back, asking what the phrase meant and how it was supposed to help me with my writing. She said that she usually included some comment about what didn’t work, and that the phrase is more of a feeling, not a criticism, like saying, “This doesn’t fit with our publication” or something wishy-washy like that.

Her words gave me pause. I realized I was taking the phrase like a punch in the gut, when it was no different from what other editors had said. It wasn’t that the piece itself was broken, just that it didn’t work for that publication. Well, okay then.


At this point, I decided that writing was a ridiculous hobby and I shouldn’t take part in it anymore. My stories tend to be strangely surreal so they don’t exactly fit anywhere. And anyway, it’s such a waste of time, isn’t it? I am a homeschooling mother, I run a small piano studio, and there are at least a dozen Korean dramas I haven’t watched yet.

I am embarrassed to say this, but I moped. I moped around for several days. I comforted myself with grilled cheese and tomato soup and a bag of candy corn from the bulk bin. My family was kind to me. My husband kept saying, “It wasn’t you they rejected. They just rejected the opportunity to publish your story.” I understand that with my head, but it didn’t make me feel any better.


I started getting sick of myself moping around. Three days later, I decided to open up that rejection letter again. This time, I saw that the editor had included a note about not connecting with the main character. I’m sure I had noticed, but skimmed over it because of the “didn’t work” phrase. Besides, who wouldn’t be able to connect with my character? That’s just silly crazy editor talk.

Then on Monday, I opened the file with the story and read through it again. The editor was right. My main character didn’t even have a NAME, for goodness sake! I thought it was a style issue, but I saw how it made it difficult to feel emotional attachment. I also saw how the use of present tense made things awkward, and how I had neglected to introduce the antagonist until right near the end. Even though it was painful, I started the hard work of revising and rewriting the story to give it more character and make it easier to connect with the work.

I’ll admit, I’m still not done. I still get a little ticked off, and then I get embarrassed, and then I think I want to quit, and I think my stories are stupid and terrible, and I think my stories are brilliant and misunderstood. And this is why I believe that no one in their right mind would choose the writing life. The writing life chooses you.


On Fear

We have to do it“Why is it that the thing we want to do most in the world, the thing we dream about fervently and study religiously, is the same thing we would rather die than attempt?”

I wrote this in an email to a friend last night. She and I have been working on screenplays together, but the majority of our time together (in person and via email) is spent avoiding writing. We lament our lack of creativity and skill, but compose long works on the desolate wastelands of our souls. Neither of us lack skill. We have both won awards for our writing. We study constantly. What we lack is courage. For us, the option is to Write or Die. Most of the time, death seems the better choice.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes, “The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” He calls this feeling Resistance. I am familiar with this feeling. I feel it right now. I want to write this blog post. I do. But I’m afraid.┬áThis fear tells me that I have to write this post, then I have to click Publish and let it out into the world.

What is your dream? What is the thing that both tantalizes and terrifies you at the same time? What would happen if you sat down *right now* and worked on it? Get out your camera, or those art supplies, or that pen, and be courageous. Then leave me a comment and let me know how you conquered your fear. Thanks for reading!


On Perfectionism

Everywhere I’ve been on the net lately, I’ve seen something about perfectionism. From my favorite finance blogs to the writing and homeschooling blogs. I think Someone up there is trying to get through to me. Last night, it finally sunk in.

All this fear talk is just another excuse. A way of avoiding the task at hand because I don’t want to fail. I don’t want to write something terrible. I want to write something great!

Hi, my name is Dream Collision, and I’m a Perfectionist. If I can’t do it “right” I can’t do it at all. I’m stuck on my script because I know the break into Act II should hit on page 25. My whole life is based on a complex set of rules designed to ensure that I do not fail. Which explains why my dog is my nemesis: I can’t control him.

Nor can I control that little thing called inspiration. But I can control how often I put in the work. So forget about finished projects and writing stuff people can read. For now, I’m just going to get to the page, every single day. Maybe for an hour. Maybe for 5 hours. But I’m going to be there, writing, no matter what comes out. Soon, I may call myself a reformed perfectionist. I hope that day comes quickly.


Finding My Voice

I sometimes fear that I have nothing unique to offer. How many people have been down this road before me, and how many of them are a thousand times more qualified than I am to write about this life? One of my greatest fears is being lost in the crowd. But another of my greatest fears is sticking out from the crowd. I can’t seem to decide from day-to-day which I would prefer.

Still, there is something nagging at me all the time.

“Write,” it says.

“About what?” I say.

“About anything,” it says, “just continue to write.”

So here I am. Writing for the sake of writing. Being creative for the sake of creativity. Hoping to burst in on some other dimension of living that will finally answer all my questions and make my life blindingly vivid. I know, somehow, that creativity is the key to piecing it all together. Of course, there is no left-brained answer to explain how or why. If I really want to find out, only my imagination can take me there. So I’m going.

When I get there, I may find that I am a clone, along with a million others, living the exact same life. It is more likely that I will discover, as I already know, that no one on earth has lived the precise combination of lives I have. Somewhere in here is a unique voice, a way of telling a story that no one else has heard before. I must find it, and let it out, even if it requires spewing out all the garbage piled on top of it first.