Ah, rejection week! What a sweet thrill. Makes you question, makes you doubt, and if you let it, makes you despair. It’s easy to think – well this person who has more power than I knows something I don’t – that my writing is shit, that I have no business even trying what I’m trying.
More on this in a second.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t affected by the passing of Steve Jobs last week. I’ve never been the tech nerd. I’m not an engineer. I don’t look good in black.
But what got to me about Steve Jobs, beyond the awfulness of cancer, beyond the great products, beyond how his success shone a light on the mediocrity of others, was the perspective he had for living life. From my outside point of view, this 2005 commencement speech was where it began. His most famous quote from that speech:
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.
I remember the first time I heard this. Now, the cynic in me thought, you’re just telling us what we want to hear. But after that thought faded, I thought again, someone else’s life? But whose life would I be living but my own?
It was such an important question that it really pissed me off. I didn’t have a good answer, because I never thought to ask it. I’ve been living my life as I was supposed to be – working hard, earning money, spending money, time with friends, etc. So, whose life? With no answer coming to mind, I let the question fester for the next five years, poking it’s head up every once and awhile.
Whose life are you living?
What that question allowed to happen – and I only recognize this by looking back – was the little seeds of ideas that come at you all the time, seeds I normally would have brushed away without a thought, I instead let them grow, gave them some energy, to see if they would prosper a little. A lot of them withered on the vine, but a few stuck around.
And when I had an idea for the first novel, instead of brushing it aside in favor of the latest crisis, I started to think about it. I thought about what authors I already liked, and wished I could be like. When I had time, I researched these authors, and how they accomplished what they did. I re-read some of their books, not just to enjoy them, but to study them. And then, one day, I sat down and committed to writing one sentence. Not a book, just a single sentence.
Six months later, I was at 80,000 words.
It certainly hasn’t been easy, forging a path that is different from what you thought or what you’ve been taught. I’ve had a lot of support, and also a lot of but you can’t do that. But what I realized, as I still wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life, is to try and remember the seeds I let in, and continue to nurture them rather than strangle them (I’m tempted).
So back to the idea of rejection. Here’s what I’ve learned from Steve Jobs: the idea of rejection, it’s not rejection, not really. It’s just means it’s not the right fit. Somebody may not understand you, somebody may not be ready for you, or somebody may simply have another point of view that doesn’t jive with your own. But if it makes sense to YOU, then don’t let the inevitable obstacles stop you from living your life as it’s meant to be. Don’t lose your vision simply because you get a no. Because eventually, and the statistics favor this, you’re gonna get a yes.
And if you don’t know your destination yet, maybe that’s your first step: letting the seeds in, nurturing them, and trying to figure out where it is you want your life to be.
PS. Thanks to Lisa for the the inspiration for this post.