The essays were piling up. The editing was done. The words -- so many words -- needed homes.
I claimed I wasn't ready to take the next step. I claimed I didn't know how. I wasted time editing things that didn't need editing and then threw away the revisions. I pulled out every excuse and delay tactic in the book, and added a few of my own. (I'm happy to share, should you start running low on delay tactics and excuses.) :-)
Finally, I gave up and just admitted the truth: I was terrified of sending my work out. Terrified that I'd do it wrong. That I'd be rejected. But the biggest fear was that the rejection would feed my own very persuasive Inner Critic, and that she would convince me to stop believing in myself as a writer.
In the face of such fear, there are only two things to do: 1) Pray and 2) Keep going.
I tend to forget that there was a time -- not that long ago -- when I was afraid to write the words at all. And then came the time -- even more recently -- when I was afraid to let anyone read what I'd written. One baby step at a time, I took the next risk. Each one required me to let God be bigger for me than ever before. And He was.
And now there was a new risk asking to be taken.
I contemplated what a reasonable person might do in such a situation...and then I did the opposite of that. This time, I decided that baby steps are for babies. I needed a mission. I needed a breakthrough. I needed to get as many irons in as many fires as possible.
So, in the month of December I sent out four different essays to 30 different publications. That meant wading through 30 sets of submission guidelines, jumping through an unimaginable number of hoops, writing 30 cover letters, reformatting my pieces every which way, navigating online submission systems...and somehow keeping track of it all.
And guess what? All the things I was afraid might happen, happened.
I did it wrong. And I survived.
I got rejected, again and again and again...sometimes within hours of my submission. And I survived.
I stopped believing in myself and in my writing. I survived, and each time, my belief returned a little sooner...and a little stronger.
I survived and I kept going. It was a ridiculous plan, but just crazy enough that it worked. I wanted (and want) my pieces published, but more than that I wanted to not be afraid anymore. And with each disappointment or rejection or misstep, I got a little less afraid and God got even bigger.
Don't get me wrong...some parts of this game are just. not. fun. And I don't expect that they ever will be. But throughout the process, each step brought me a little closer to that delightful place called "So What?"
On January 1st I got my first acceptance. It was the very best way to start the new year and I don't think it's any coincidence that it happened on a holiday, while I was on vacation, on day one of my 365-day focus on the words "Effort less."
My piece is called "Third Date With a Mammogram" and it was published last week in the 22nd edition of damselfly press. If you haven't already, I hope you'll stop by and give it a read.
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January 29, 2013 update: another of my 30 submissions in 30 days essays has been published. Click here to read The Art of Goodbye at Wild Violet.