Most of my life has been spent nearly doing stuff. Nearly going for the degree I wanted in California; nearly taking that MTV job but chickening out. Nearly taking up my old boss’s offer to help me get a piece published in the Observer.
In the end, I would systematically chicken out. Fear of failure has crippled me throughout my life. The idea of something not being good enough kept me in a state of paralysis, never attempting anything I actually wanted to do, and even things I didn’t. There was a time, twenty years ago, when the idea of calling up a shop to ask if they sold fax machines made me nauseous in case I did it wrong.
It also meant I ended up in a string of really random jobs like working in a Japanese woodblock print gallery, selling ‘postal history’, old stamped envelopes called covers, to men who were nearly as old as the history they were purchasing. I was even a secretary on Wall Street once. Anything to avoid a job I really wanted.
What I find most intriguing is how I managed to hide this from almost everyone I know for nearly all of my adult life.
Starting to write was a huge step. Attempting to write for a site like Blunt Moms, another. Despite that accomplishment, I was very fragile and still believed somehow I didn’t belong there. Most people think once you are a cadre writer, all your pieces will go through. And perhaps that is the case for most, I don’t know. What I can say is that wasn’t the case for my work.
I wrote a post I felt very strongly about for them. I went through several rounds of editorial feedback. That I managed to keep submitting revisions was itself an indication of the huge progress I’d made. But with each time my finger hovered over the ‘send’ button, I felt my confidence dissolving. Our editor advised me that I had ‘over salted the soup’ and it was best to just bin that post and try something else.
Getting that rejection was my worst fear materializing, sort of like Voldemort’s comeback after everyone thought he was banished forever. We aren’t talking about just having a post rejected once; no matter how much I worked on it, I couldn’t get it right. It flicked every panic switch in my system.
I was devastated. I cried more than I care to admit. I even considered not writing anymore. It may sound silly but I felt it was a confirmation of all the fears I’d had. A piece eventually came out of this called: The Bully I Can’t Escape. Just typing the title makes me cry but it was one of the best things I ever wrote for myself.
And here’s the thing: For the first time I didn’t give up. This was not my MO. I was a runaway kind of gal. But instead, I took the editor’s advice. I got back to writing and tackled something different. And then I started submitting further afield and the rejections started rolling in.
Suddenly I didn’t care. For the first time, I was actually going for things I never dreamed of. I realized the most important – and nauseatingly cliché– thing was that I was putting myself out there. I stopped fearing the failure and decided to embrace it and try to learn from it.
Of course rejection still hurts, but not nearly as much as regret will down the line. I’ll never regret swapping one for the other.
Cordelia has been published on BluntMoms, Mamalode, IncultureParent and FastCompany