Who I am When a Yes Becomes a No

We’re a quarter way through 2016, and I still haven’t really found my bearings. There were a few big professional let-downs last year that caught me off guard. My agent terminated our author-agent relationship. A publication that had accepted several of my pieces decided at the last minute not to use them. I powered through the exclusions for a long time, but when this year started, I just couldn’t shake them.

I’ve had lots of noes as a writer, and while they sting when they occur, that’s just how the writing life goes. There are a finite number of opportunities out there, and a seeming infinite number of writers, so obviously you’re going to hear no with some regularity. I can steel myself up for that. But these weren’t outright rejections. They were yeses that morphed into noes.

I’m proud of most of the work that I accomplished last year. I wrote some things that I genuinely loved here on the blog, and I wrote a book that I believe can be of comfort to those who are in a season of grief. But those rejections had a much greater impact on me than I would have imagined. They hurt so much. Way past where the writer me resides to the very core of me. Every time I would sit down to write something, those rebuffs would echo around in my brain, causing me to doubt my worth.

Sure maybe it is as simple as a full roster of clients. Maybe the publication just decided that it wanted to go another way with the contributors. Maybe the answers are easy and totally understandable.

Shame doesn’t like easy answers. Shame likes to look for hidden messages. Messages about my value not only as a writer, but as a person.

Maybe I was too much of a liability to have as a client. Can’t really pitch an author who had an affair and left her husband to marry someone else. Can’t include an author who has a trans kid and doesn’t conform to orthodox Christianity. Not just not good enough as a writer, but not good enough as a person.

Shame twists rejection into something sinister. Something personal.

I know that my worth is found in much more than where I’m published or who does or doesn’t represent me, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t do a great job of separating out those things. I allowed shame, combined with fear, to stop me from pursuing opportunities to share parts of myself with others through my writing. I allowed shame and fear to rob me of the joy of simply writing out words and sharing stories. I allowed shame and fear to tell me how much I was worth, and let me tell you, it wasn’t very much.

However, my successes and failures shouldn’t be the totality of where I found my value. Let me be clear, I haven’t figured out how to make them mean nothing. Part of who I am is a writer, so when something goes well or goes not so well, it’s going to affect my self-worth to some degree. But I don’t have to allow them to dictate if or when I write. I don’t have to allow them to speak into other areas of my life.

I remember I’m a good wife. I remember I’m a good mother. I remember I’m a good writer. I remember I’m loved and cherished and valued. By people in my life, by God, by myself.

I don’t have to allow fear and shame to tell me who I am. 

3 thoughts on “Who I am When a Yes Becomes a No

  1. “Shame doesn’t like easy answers. Shame likes to look for hidden messages. Messages about my value not only as a writer, but as a person.” This is me but ALL THE DAMN TIME. I can’t really separate it at all. Not without ALOT of work and mental prodding and such. i used to be able to a bit easier. I think the consequences of having the “big, epic failures” is this work right here that you speak of. My un-worth seems “proveable” now or something. So. I can relate. And I’m sorry for those exclusions. Man, it does hurt & hurt & hurt. I pray we’ll keep doing the work to get past it. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten my bearings on 2016 either! Or just when I do…. well, ya know.

    much love sis.

  2. So true about shame, Alise, how is clings and twists, such a strange and destructive force. I hope this writing, in some way, helps you move on AND wishing many more yeses your way.

  3. “This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.” Rumi

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