When I finished my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing, I had a literary agent reach out to me and request a full manuscript of my novel. The manuscript wasn’t ready at the time, so I kept working on it, rereading, rethinking, and revising, until I had a solid, workable draft to send. I sent it to her a few weeks ago, and last week, she let me know that she wouldn’t be interested in representing it.
Of course, I was disappointed. It felt like a squandered opportunity. Like maybe I should have worked harder before I sent the manuscript because she reached out to me, after all, and maybe I had disappointed her. Maybe I missed a big shot. Maybe I missed my only shot.
Logically, I knew that wasn’t true, but still, I struggled for a little while with feeling like a failure. Rejection is a part of being a writer, and I will face it 100+ more times if I take the process of getting published seriously, but that opportunity felt different, and I let myself wallow a little bit. Eventually, I realized, that it wasn’t just the rejection that hurt, but the missed opportunity to accomplish something. I told my husband, as he was trying to comfort me, that what truly felt so bad was that I wanted validation through my accomplishments.
I started a new job last month, and it’s different from any other job I’ve had in that it isn’t focused on tasks. For the most part, I am in control of my schedule and I get to decide how to spend my time. I’ve been having difficulty acclimating to this because I go in to work feeling like I have nothing to do since no one has assigned me a specific task, and I leave work feeling like I did nothing to contribute to my team since I didn’t complete a specific task. The rejection from the agent came during the height of my anxiety about this new job, and the two experiences really held a mirror up to my insecurities.
Even though I’ve worked hard on self-acceptance and personal growth this year, I still seek esteem through what I do, rather than who I am.
If I’m too busy focusing on tasks and results, then I will miss chances to be creative and innovative.
When I started to rethink my approach to my new job, I gained some confidence to be curious. I gained some trust in myself to approach my supervisor with ideas, instead of asking her for more tasks. I redefined my work day as a chance to experiment, instead of an obligation to produce something.
That newfound trust is something I’ll have to keep working on in every area of my life. I’ll have to keep trying new things.
I’ll have to keep going for it.
That trust won’t be static. Some days, I’ll still feel anxious. Some days, I’ll still ache for validation through accomplishment, and that’s okay.
When it comes to writing, this trust is highly valuable.
If I miss opportunities to create and innovate because I’m too worried about creating a product, then I miss the whole point.
If I trust myself to write the story that’s in my heart (sorry for the cheesy cliché, but I can’t figure out any other way to say that), then I’ll write something that matters; then I’ll know when enough is enough and my manuscript is ready; then I’ll trust myself to go for it.
Some days, I’ll let rejection wash over me, and some days, it’ll get me down. Some days, I’ll sit down to write and feel great about even just a few words, and other days I’ll feel shitty for not finishing something; regardless, I can keep training myself to trust in the process.
I can teach myself, through my words and my actions, that I’m valuable with or without an accomplishment to show for the day.
I can redefine what accomplishment means.
I can trust that my definition of what’s good is good. I can let less productive days be merely blips in my existence.
What could you gain from trusting yourself? What insights could you glean from focusing on process over product?