“While vulnerability is the birthplace of many of the fulfilling experiences we long for — love, belonging, joy, creativity, and trust, to name a few — the process of regaining our emotional footing in the midst of struggle is where our courage is tested and our values forged.” Dr. Brene Brown, Rising Strong
Last Friday before closing “shop” for the weekend, I got an email from an editor on a piece I’d already sent on crowdfunding for a well-known magazine. I knew it wasn’t good from the red marks already in the body of the email.
I started freaking out. Voices of disappointment and fear came flooding once again. I’m not good enough to do this crowdfunding piece. I’m not worthy.
She asked if I would be interested in making the following Monday deadline for revising the article yet again. I skimmed the article – there were many comments and questions. I groaned. I was looking a few hours worth of work if not more, and I had already plans with my family for the weekend. Oy. Talk about pressure.
The first article went through without a hitch. Why was I having problems with this one? I thought I was on a roll and the editor liked my work.
I only saw the deadline and the determined writer in me wanted to plunge to the finish line and do this revision justice. Still there was that editor’s sting, but I decided that I wasn’t going to let one editor’s comments ruin my writing career. I had way too many things to do. I never have enough time to write.
I didn’t fail. But I put myself out there. As Brene Brown says, I was in the “arena” getting knocked down and “fighting my way back.”
What I wanted to share with you is not just overcoming the adversity -the shame of being labeled as a “disorganized writer” in high school, but how I quickly wanted to bypass the icky feeling and that I can quickly recover.
Like Brene Brown says, “we like recovery stories to move quickly through the dark so we can get to the sweeping redemptive ending. I worry that this lack of honest accounts of overcoming adversity has created a Gilded Age of Failure.”
I am guilty of moving quickly through the dark. I am quick to make decisions, quick to hide, quick to cover up the shame because the feeling is quite frankly, icky.
Then there’s the other voice: “who the heck is interested in hearing my dark stories and why?” Heck, I wrote a memoir about shame. So why am I holding back sharing my “dark” story about triggering sensation of an editor’s comment.
If I had allowed myself to expose my naked soul at the moment and not be in such a frenzy to get that article done, I would tell myself and the world, a different story about myself as a writer:
1. I struggle with faith every day. I’m afraid, deeply afraid of feedback. I always get into a semi-anxious panic attack and work myself up. Even when the editor’s comments are good, I seldom allow myself to enjoy them because I’m already so self-consumed. I often wake up in the morning wondering how I can I live in an 18 year old body and still pretend that everything is okay.
2. People online interpret me as the “courage writer” but the truth is, I’m a determined introvert whose success rests on how determined I’ve woken up in the morning. Perhaps I’ve taken pride in that Nike “Just do it” attitude that has followed me from New York City to Israel, but no-one truly knows how much energy it takes to do the other non-introverted things I do on a weekly basis like interviewing authors and entrepreneurs for a podcast series on courage. It’s scary, but I do it anyway. I don’t sleep well the night before a podcast interview. I’m organized, lucid and focused and still, I freak out.
So where does Brene Brown’s “Rising Strong” quotient show up in my work as a writer – past the failure into the pit of gems?
Have the Courage to Persevere
You get up into that arena and you fight like a gladiator. In the arena, we learn more about ourselves. If an editor wants us to research this idea or provide more solid evidence, then we’re going to take his lead and trust that this can only help us as writers. Editors are not gods, but they know a thing or two about the pieces they accept for their magazine.
Rise to Shine!
You don’t shine right away in the arena. You still need to rise up to the challenge and accept it. Once I convinced myself that I was worthy of accepting the challenge, the motivation level to do the revision some justice. Obviously, the editor’s initial comments helped:
“This piece has the potential to be very strong.”
That notion lifted me up into the arena. Other editors I have worked with were not that encouraging. Their remakrs were: “can you get that piece done by this Monday?” or “You need to do such and such…” Now I don’t let their responses just wash over me. I’ve learned to differentiate between a good and not so good editor.
This brings me to my next point: courage thrives on action. In each moment, we have the ability to rise and shine and be slightly better than we were a minute ago. Had I said no to the editor’s request, I may not have had the ability to be rising strong even as I write this and just got stellar advice from a top-notch editor.
Having courage brings us closer to greatness. Thank you Brene Brown for sharing your gifts with the world.
How would you react if you were me? Would you have furiously pursued those edits or just given up?