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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The F Word

"Mommy! Daniel said the F word!" my daughter, 5, tattled on her 8-year-old brother.

"The F word?" I looked at her and raised my eyebrows. Neither my husband nor I use that word, but who knows what my children might pick up on the playground.

"You know," she leaned closer. "Fat."

"That's terrible," I said promptly, as if it never crossed my mind that she might be referring to a different word.

The F word I want to condemn today is failure. Many people are quick to label themselves failures. Sometimes they're kidding (I'm a failure as a mother!) or looking for reassurance from their friends (Awww, sweetie, course you're not!). Unfortunately, lots of times, we feel like bona fide duds. A rejection to a query letter can trigger the black F cloud upon us. We wonder why we keep writing. We think of everyone who is publishing essays, placing articles in national magazines, and getting books accepted. "Everyone but me!" we moan, rocking back and forth a little while we shred a tissue.

Allow yourself a little funk. A minute or two. Then, get over it. "Writer" and "rejection" are synonyms. It's part of a writer's life, the way a chef occasionally burns a steak and a quilter sews two pieces together inside out.

Easier said than done, I know. I know all too well. Over the years, I've developed a few tactics to stave off the "failure" label.

I go to bookstores and look at all the shelves full of books. If these people can be published, so can I.

Before I send off a query letter for a magazine article, I think of three or four publications that would be a good fit for the piece. If Magazine No. 1 passes on my idea, I adjust the wording and send it to the next magazine.

I remind myself that there's plenty of room at the top for everyone (a concept I got from Lynn Franklin of WriterL list). There's no one enforcing a quota on success.

How am I measuring success and what constitutes a failure? Don't let someone else define either. I know my circumstances.

You're not a failure till you stop trying.

category: craft


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