Perseverance in the Face of Fear
Updated: Mar 11, 2020
I am a hero
I am strong and wise
And I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I want to be
In my daughter’s eyes.
-Martina McBride, In My Daughter’s Eyes
I recently introduced Cassidy to the song, In My Daughter’s Eyes, by Martina McBride. I can’t listen to it without crying. Since last July, I’ve watched Cassidy battle daily nausea, pain, and fevers, and I ask myself, “How is she doing this?” For each moment that she wants to give up, there are twenty more where she refuses to cave.
She makes me see who I want to be.
In the past, my blog has largely served as a therapeutic outlet for me. I’ve written because I felt like I had something to say, and I believe that we are never alone in our experiences. In my moments of fear/pain/confusion/excitement/turmoil/whatever, I’ve always found comfort in empathy. And I’ve always hoped that my blog might, perhaps, help someone else feel less alone, too. I expect this will never change.
That said, as we move into the year in which CAN U SAVE THE DAY, my first picture book, will be published, I feel driven to merge my life musings with my love of everything kidlit.
I feel the need to adopt my daughter’s strength and pour that into the community that has carried me through so much.
Which brings me to a different kind of strength.
Perseverance in the face of rejection.
Rejection creates fear. Fear creates self-doubt. And self-doubt cuts deep. If you’re a writer and you’ve ever put yourself “out there,” chances are that you’ve been rejected. Agents. Editors. Contests. Critique partners (though I must say, mine are the absolute bomb). Sometimes, we receive form letters rejecting our work. Sometimes, we hear nothing at all. Sometimes, we get those “champagne rejections,” which are great… for a moment. But they’re still rejections.
So how do we keep plowing forward in the face of perceived failure? We recognize one single, important fact.
Rejection. Is. Not. Failure. It’s just evidence that we are trying.
And if we are trying, then we are brave.
My friend, Deborah Underwood, recently sent Cassidy a pre-release copy of her newest picture book, Bearnard’s Book (coming out in February). It’s about a bear with self-doubt. A bear who tries to overcome his fears, but doesn’t quite get there. A bear who doesn’t understand that he is brave, simply because he tries.
A bear like Cassidy. Or like me.
A bear like every single kidlit writer who regularly serves their heart on a platter of vulnerability.
But still, rejections are inevitable in this business. So what can we do to keep the blues away when we feel like we’re drowning in a sea of dismissal? When fear cloaks and paralyzes us? Here are six of my favorite ways to shake fear off:
CRITIQUE PARTNERS. If you don’t have a group, get one. Or two. Or three. I found all of my critique partners through either SCBWI or 12×12. You can’t be serious about writing if you’re not willing to revise, and revisions are impossible without unbiased, authorly eyeballs. Not only will your work improve, but if you’re lucky, like me, you just might find you have your very own cheerleading section for those moments when you feel like shooting your laptop into space.
READ WHAT YOU LOVE – other people’s work, your work, it doesn’t matter. You got into this crazy business because you love it, right? So pull that favorite manuscript out, even if you just read it yesterday, and read it again. Curl up with a new novel. Go to your local library or bookstore and peruse the shelves. Surround yourself with the stories you adore, and let yourself be carried away.
BUY A BOOK OF PROMPTS – Personally, I like quotes. A good quote is like lasagna. It sticks with me for days. But I also like prompts and exercises. Books like this can be a lifesaver when you feel stuck.
GET AWAY – Go for a walk. Jump in a puddle. Listen to the birds. Take a nap. Go to a park and eavesdrop (seriously). Sometimes, inspiration strikes when you turn your brain off. CAN U SAVE THE DAY came to me as I was falling asleep. Once your brain is off, one of two things is going to happen. Either inspiration is going to strike, or you’re going to enjoy a moment of peace. Either way, you win!
EAT CHOCOLATE – Because… well, chocolate.
TELL YOURSELF YOU’RE AWESOME – I know this might seem self-indulgent or silly… but thoughts ARE things. If we tell ourselves something often enough, then eventually, we will believe it. Good OR bad.
Recently, Cassidy mused, “Last year at this time, I didn’t know how lucky I was to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I took it for granted every day when I could just play with my friends without feeling sick. When I’m better, I will never take my heath for granted again.”
It took me 37 years and a coma to learn this lesson.
She’s only 10.
When life throws jellied moose nose at us (yes, this is really a thing – Canada, I’m looking at you), we can choose our angle. Do we want to see it as a disgusting, unfair cuisine that life is forcing us to eat? Or do we instead want to say, “No, thank you,” and reach for the chocolate?
New year. New attitude. New blog. This year, I don’t just choose meaningful ramblings. I choose meaningful KIDLIT ramblings. I want to find great books and fabulous authors, and I want to help introduce them to you. Not just their picture books, but THEM. I want you to get to know the person behind the picture book. The woman behind the cover, so to speak. I want your life to be richer because you opened your heart to the delicious, earnest, vulnerable world of children’s literature. I want my life to be richer for looking.
Who’s with me?