In our family, we love to watch the first weeks of American Idol. The train wreck portion of the show. We know its all staged, but we can't look away as person after person sings their heart out--poorly. We're left asking, "Where are her friends? Who let her believe she could carry a tune? Why didn't her parents protect her from this delusion?" Of course, that's all part of the drama.
I often fear I'm deluded. So, to insure that I don't make the same mistake as thousands of American Idol hopefuls , I study people's reaction to me very closely. I've learned to read when their words don't match their body language and I've placed a high value on the opinion of others. When I ask Richard "Do I look fat in these jeans?" He knows its a setup. I can tell what he thinks before he even speaks.
This pathology isn't all bad. I'm open to feedback and it allows me to grow. I surround myself with good counsel and it helps me make better decisions.
But what about when the judges disagree?
If you've ever seen the show, or one of the many knock-offs, you know that sometimes the judges have different opinions about the contestant's talent or potential. For a person like me, this is a conundrum. I like unanimous affirmation. Some people like the challenge of proving people wrong, of overcoming their objections. I think that sounds like a lot of work that could potentially end up in failure.
But nothing of value comes from so little effort.
The Journey or the Prize?
Many of you know I have a book proposal making the rounds at publishing houses around the country. Earlier this year, one of the smaller publishers made an offer on it. However, in the meantime I'd decided that wasn't the book I wanted to write and we withdrew the proposal so I could make some changes. A few weeks ago we resubmitted the proposal. I was pretty excited about the changes and we received some very positive feedback from the initial query. Photo Cred
Sure enough, one of the big publishers was quick to get back with some feedback. I was in a conversation with my son when I saw the email notification from my agent. My insides started to churn. I couldn't keep myself from hope. This might be it!
I paused Caleb in mid-sentence and went to my inbox. Yes, I was talking to Caleb with my computer in front of me. In my defense, I was working when he came in to talk. Plus, he was going to be very proud of his mom in just a few seconds so this faux pas would be forgiven.
As I skimmed the email looking for the words "loved your proposal" and "made an offer", I became aware that I wasn't breathing. My brain seemed to be floating away from my body and the room started to spin. "False alarm." I stammered to Caleb. "They don't want my book."
But that was an understatement. I finished the conversation with Caleb and went back to the email. This publisher didn't just pass on my book, they seemed intent on dissuading me from the whole writing game. My first thought was, "How did I miss the signs? I must have been delusional to think I could do this."
I toyed with the idea of sharing this rejection with you only after I was sitting comfortably with an actual offer. How dramatic that would be. And, inspirational.
But this is reality. I may never get an offer. And, I'm learning that a book deal may not be the primary reason God had me in the process in the first place. (Although, I'm really hoping it is a by-product.)
Something is different and God used this event to show me what he's doing in me.
The first hours were tough. I wondered if I'd ever feel good about myself again. Or, at least, my writing. But I decided to let myself experience the hurt and the pain. Not push it down or pretend that "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me." On the contrary, I was acutely aware of the power of words. I made a couple of attempts to read my proposal; to see if I could fix it and make these people like me. But I was too anxious, too wounded to view it objectively. So I went for a run, hung out with my kids, played a game on my iPad. I talked with God and cried with my husband and then went to bed.
I woke up feeling less anxious, but hardly back to normal. I have a morning routine that involves writing three pages of longhand ideas and thoughts each day. I didn't feel like writing. I stared at the blank pages for a long while, silently justifying a pass for this daily discipline. I picked up the pen and wrote a paragraph. I stopped to feel sorry for myself. I picked up the pen and started writing again. But this time I'd decided to suck it up and keep going. What is a discipline for if not for the days you don't feel like it? By the end of the exercise I had processed through my next steps. And the anxiety was gone.
I called my agent (who confirmed that the feedback was unusually harsh) and shared my potential modifications. She agreed and I got to work.
And it was done. A miracle. I was at peace. Not defined by someone else's opinion of me or my work and still able to learn from it.
This must be what it feels like to be a grown up.
Kelli is a writer, speaker and consultant equipping leaders for a deepening intimacy with Christ, greater impact in ministry and more effective intentionality in all of life.
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