Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Big Fish, Little Pond

Life is full of rejection I suppose. We all try to minimize it as much as possible. Defense mechanisms, rationalizations, avoidance, not living up to our potential, giving up too soon, excuses. I've tried to minimize rejection in my life as much as possible. That is, until I decided I wanted to become a "writer." I don't really know how one qualifies oneself as a writer - other than to "make a living at writing stuff." If you're not making a living, can you still self-label as a writer? I don't know. I do know I love it, and at some point I would like a career that pays me to do what I love. Wouldn't everyone?

Here's the problem though... well, one of many problems in my ridiculous life. Some fields or pursuits expose us to more opportunity for overt rejection than others. Certainly trying to succeed in the "creative arts" puts you under scrutiny. As an actor, dancer, writer, artist, you submit or audition your very soul, the expression of who you are, and a complete stranger gives you the thumbs up or thumbs down. Of course, it's usually done nicely. Of course, criticism is constructive. It doesn't matter though. A rejection letter is a rejection letter. A let down is a let down. No one can say it doesn't affect them, even if it's just for 10 minutes. You feel some sort of "crushed."

To protect myself against rejection I stay where I am comfortable. I am a big fish, so long as I'm in a little pond. In my "little pond" people gush over my "talent." In a little pond I feel smart, well-liked, popular, talented. But, I don't WANT to stay in a little pond forever. Nothing against little ponds! Little ponds are where you make real relationships and see the the fruits of your labor up close and personal. You hear more directly how you touched people's lives. But, sometimes I crave the bigger ponds. The ocean. I try to put my pinky toe into the Atlantic and sink like a stone. There are a LOT of talented people in the big pond. In the little pond, I may write something that makes people laugh or cry, but in the big pond hundreds of thousands do it just as well, if not better than I.

What to do. Give up? I have a whole other career in psychology to fall back on. I could just use this writing thing as a hobby...yeah, that's what I should do. The little pond is where I'm meant to be. But the big pond is calling me, and I don't know why. It's driving me nuts, because I am so not one to be driven, to open myself up to ritualistic criticism, to put myself out on a limb, to be relentless in a pursuit.

Yet, I feel like I have something to say and want to say it. Crazy, huh? What it is I want to say, I'm not yet sure I know. But it burns within me. I know it has to do with my daughter, CB. To leave a mark on the world in honor of her. Due to the extent of her disabilities, she will not have children, not have relationships with a broad array of people, not be able to communicate. This is not me being negative, for those of you who do not know her. It's me being sincere and honest. When I write, whether it is about my experiences as CB's mother or not, it reflects who I have become BECAUSE of her. My voice carries the shadows of her voice. My experiences on paper often come from a place that she inhabits too. Whatever it is, it is driving me toward something that feels risky and vulnerable, and certainly not lucrative! Whatever it is, it lures me from my warm shallow puddle for the deeper, icy leagues of the sea.

It makes me submit myself, raw and exposed, to critics without faces. They review my soul and say "It's no good for us." Back to the whipping post... er, drawing board. I go back for more, time and time again. Not certain I am even good enough, but driven to try despite my own best judgement. So, I guess I've realized there IS one thing worse than rejection. Giving up before you really try.


Michelle said...

Love that post. Perhaps, part of it will comprise the prolgue to your book one day. Did you ever consider the fact that touching the lives of those in your "pond" impacts the "ocean?" Just a thought. Although I'm confident that you'll be swimming there yourself one day soon. When it happens, I'll be waving both fins high in the air, telling everyone I knew you when.
Your "guppy" friend

daysgoby said...

This is a phenomenal post!

SE'LAH... said...

Awesome post.

Back catching up on your blog.

Have an Inspirational Monday.

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