Six Reasons Why I’m Glad My Children See Me Fail
This week I had a rejection that stung even more than the time a bee flew into my mouth when I was on the back of my friend’s bike in 1982.
This rejection hurt so keenly because: a) I was convinced this book and this editor were a good fit b) Rejection is agonising – always c) It was the most positive, flattering and encouraging rejection I’ve ever had.
I’m not saying I wish the editor had told me my writing was awful. It’s more that the close, but no cigar element makes the drop from hope to disappointment seem deeper.
My husband mopped up my tears, reminded me every failure is a step towards success, and took our gang of 4 out for pizza to celebrate me not getting a book deal. During that dinner, I realised it’s good for our teenage girls to see their parents striving and getting knocked back. These are the reasons why:
Courage to be Vulnerable
Putting your words out there is terrifying. Fiction comes from a desire to connect through stories, saying: I feel like this; do you feel it too?’ To be published, a writer has to offer up the inner workings of their head for the world to trample on. And trample it will. From your first beta reader to the reviewer who says they wish they’d spent the money on a Twix instead (Kerry Fisher always makes me laugh with that one), they will have an opinion. And so they should.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Opening yourself up in that way takes courage. I’m glad my children see me being brave enough to make myself vulnerable, even if the consequences aren’t always what I hope for.
Art for Art’s Sake
My youngest daughter asked me where I find my validation. I can’t imagine having the language or emotional intelligence to ask that question when I was a teen (I’d like to think she’s just wise, but she probably saw it on TikTok).
She asked if I would still write if I had no chance of publication. The answer is yes. It makes me happy. It gives me purpose. It gives me the opportunity to work through and express my thoughts – also, I like the people who live in my head.
She told me I needed to look to myself for validation. I’m creating and it makes me happy. That should be enough.
(Maybe I’m not always the one doing the teaching).
Effort Over Achievement
I’m one of those mums who looks at the effort grades before the achievement on the school report. If my kids have done their best, that’s good enough for me.
They see how hard I’ve worked at my writing, and I know they’re proud of that. I’ve learned a lot, enjoyed the process, and met some incredible friends along the way.
I think my girls would award me top marks for effort.
I get knocked down, but I get up again. Sing it with me.
I admit, I didn’t feel altogether Tubthumping when the rejection came through. I allowed myself a few tears, a sunken heart and an hour of what’s the point?
The kids were there for that. They were also there for the recovery, where I adjusted my plans, thought about the next steps and decided on a new course of action. If I can do that, they can too.
Flexibility matters. It’s one of the things that keeps us young – and I’m not just talking about weekly Pilates. I’m a planner by nature, so I find disappointment and change of plans hard. But I have learned how to twist my mind into a mental downward dog and set a new course.
We need a flexible mind to remain open to new ideas, challenge our long-held opinions and change course if our lives don’t go the way we planned. My children know that if they have an opinion which differs from mine, I will listen and am willing to press the refresh button in my head.
Never Too Old to Dream
A while ago I wrote a blog called Never too Old to Rock, about my husband auditioning for his favourite band. He missed it by a fraction. We’re both in our fifties. That hasn’t stopped us dreaming and striving to make our dreams come true.
If he’d got in the band, the tour would have been gruelling. If I had a book deal, the hard work of editing would begin. I am realistic enough to know this.
So that’s another important lesson I hope we instil in our kids. Dreams are great, as long as you’re prepared to put the work in when the alarm goes off.
I’m not going to pretend I’m happy about this rejection (I’m a sensitive creative, don’t ya know?) but I can see the odd positive, not least that I was told I was ‘a brilliant writer’ by an editor I admire.
So, just like I did when that bee deposited its rear end in my mouth, I will cry about the sting, give myself time to heal, then get back on the bloody bike.
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