I suffer from anxiety.
PLEASE, try to restrain your shock! I know, a writer with an emotional dysfunction? How can it be? It’s completely unheard of!
Over the last several months, I have been actively working to decrease my anxiety through various techniques, my favourite being reading (OF COURSE!). It was suggested that I take a read through The Dance of Fear by Harriet Lerner as most anxiety stems back to a fear of…something.
The fear of rejection is a major issue for many people. Rejection by a friend, lover, boss, coworker, school, ATM, parent, publisher, editor or reader, can shake us off of our stable foundations into an abyss of depression and personal torment.
For a while now, I have been avoiding working on my novel. After my editor rejected the entire premise of my story (a premise that was originally praised), I felt extremely disheartened, like the last two years of my life were a waste, like I was a waste…and so goes the spiral into depression. I didn’t want to work on my novel because I didn’t want to be rejected anymore. I feared that pursuing my dream of submitting it to publishers would further cripple my self esteem.
Intrinsically, we know that allowing fear to rule our lives is futile, but overcoming it isn’t always easy.
As I was reading through The Dance of Fear, I came across this story about a man who was cured of his fear of rejection in one day. It went something like this:
Frank’s wife left him after 20 years of marriage. A year later he connected with his old therapist who lived in another city. Short on time, Frank explained how he had a crush on a woman, Lilly, at work but couldn’t get over his fear of having her reject him. He needed a solution and he needed it before he left the city.
His therapist told him to perform the following activity and that he would be cured forever:
Go to the mall, stand at the bottom of the escalator and say the following to every woman who comes down it “Hi, my name is Frank. I hope this doesn’t sound too forward but I was wondering if you would have coffee with me?” The goal was to accumulate 200 rejections. Once he hit his mark, Frank would be done.
So he did it. What Frank didn’t anticipate was that some women would say yes, which meant he’d have to go to coffee and would lose out on the opportunity to add to his rejection quota. So, Frank started filtering the women. He’d ask only married women and women who were clearly out of his league.
After a while, Frank realized how silly the assignment was. The only person he wanted to ask to coffee was Lilly. So he went home and approached Lilly with the same line “Hi, my name is Frank. I hope this doesn’t sound too forward but I was wondering if you would have coffee with me?” Lilly appreciated the request but was already involved with someone. Still, Frank was cured. He ended up with a wonderful woman a short time later, a woman he didn’t hesitate to ask to coffee.
I’m not suggesting you stand at the bottom of an escalator and ask everyone who comes down to publish your writing (there are some security issues involved here I would think but you can if you want), but I think there is something to learn from Frank’s experience.
Rejection is a part of life, a big part of a writer’s life at times. Still, if we keep working at it and putting ourselves out there, we can filter through all of those rejections and find that one wonderful connection that will help us fulfill our dreams. One editor may not think my book will work, but there will be others who will. Not all readers are going to like my story but there will be some who love it.