If your Thing is a competitive thing, you, like me, may have an addiction to yes.
Now sure, I write to tell stories. But I also write, frequently, from a place of anger. So often when I tried to tell stories as a young person, people met them with, But why would anyone care about a story about that? Sometimes, it was worse: Why would someone care about a story from someone like you? or even Why would someone care about a story from you?
In many ways, Do the Thing! is about helping people find, if not their anger, their unwillingness to be told by others what they are and are not capable of. If this fuel can work for me, it can work for you too. And if this fuel can work for all of us, and we create things and put them out in the world, people will, eventually, stop trying to convince each other and themselves that it’s just too hard or that they’re not good enough. And then there will be more things for all of us to enjoy.
But if you compete in this world at anything from any type of wound, yes feels a certain way. It’s not just exciting, it’s victory. And it’s not just victory, but vindication.
Which means the days that you hear No or This isn’t the right fit for us or It’s not there yet or Try again next time can really suck. They can, because people remember negatives more than positives, make you feel like all your victories — including that most basic one where you get up every day and face the world — don’t mean anything.
This, of course, isn’t true. But if you’ve had this experience, you know it’s a big obstacle to Doing the Thing! After all, what endeavor can even bring with it a new yes every single day?
An addiction to yes can also lead you to pursue low-hanging fruit when you need to take the risk to advance to the next stage of your ambition.
So how do you break away from that addiction to yes? How do you refrain from over-weighting the negative so that you can listen to critique and continue to improve you work? And what are you doing to give yourself a daily yes when the world isn’t necessarily inclined to cooperate?
While we’re all working on figuring that out, we’ve got a lot of yes to give out in comments today, so if you need some approval and encouragement with a little side dish of supportive ass-kicking, hit the comments! As always, anonymous commenting is on.
I’m probably going off topic a little. I struggle with Yes because I don’t believe it. For various reasons as life progressed, I taught myself to expect a no so that I wouldn’t be hurt or let down when I got the no. No feels natural. No is a language I speak fluently. Yes, to me, feels like smoke and mirrors, or lies, or something I don’t deserve. For a lot of my life, I’ve ignored even the low hanging fruit out of fear. Fear is an irrational asshole.
I have a huge YES! in my life right now with the contract for my first novel: some days the thing that holds me back the most is a lack of confidence that I can follow through or give the people who gave me this opportunity, what they are looking for. When I sit down to write most days, my brain is so hard at work dismantling all of the reasons I’ve been given this yes opportunity. I have an endless supply of No’s in there. It really kind of sucks.
The idea that “Yes” is a lie or something we don’t deserve, is one of the most pernicious things to battle when Doing the Thing. And those little nagging voices can be completely devastating.
But the yes you need isn’t from anyone else, it’s from you. You did the work that got you this opportunity, and you’re doing the work now. Every day when you pick up a pen or sit down at the keys do write, you are making that yes over and over again. And that’s pretty fucking awesome. Now that you know you CAN make yes and do the thing, never forget that. Keep up the excellence and the hard work and overcoming the fear and GO YOU. Because you, and everyone else who is doing things, deserves it.
I think that impostor syndrome thing is really, really common and totally the other side of the coin from my particular crazy. It’s that over-weighting of no, so that it’s hard to believe yes.
For me, what has helped,is recognizing that it’s okay to fail. I don’t want to, but sometimes I blow a deadline, sometimes I can’t make a thing happen. The consequences range, but no one can actually tell you “You’ll never work in this town again,” and mean it. Once you know you can fail, and live to tell the tale, I think it’s a lot easier to get shit done.
Despite high school the years of people saying “I love your sweater!” who really, really did not love my sweater, in the world of creating things, no one says yes as a joke or a cruelty. They want your stuff. There’s no time for it to be anything but.
You can totally do this.
I did the thing last weekend, and today I got paid for it. This was my first modeling gig in ~30 years, and definitely my first since my hair started falling out (autoimmune endocrine shit) and I decided to go bald. It feels great to have gotten paid to put myself out there again!
That is fantastic!
That’s wonderful! Go you!!
My need for that daily yes (and I guess the anger thing) is why I sprint. When I hit the track (or treadmill), I know that I can’t possibly mess up. Whether I end up having a good day where I complete the whole session or feel miserable and drop out after a few sprints, I know I pushed myself to my best on that day.
The words might not come when I write, and people might not like them when they do come, but I take comfort in knowing that there’s one thing I know I can retreat to and say, “yes, I’m okay too.”
So basically what started off as a negative comment turned into a positive comment because your blog is magic? (But I definitely feel weird just making a blog comment about myself. Definitely I seek the permission to do little things, which is a different kind of yes, I suppose).
You always have permission to talk about yourself here! That’s one of the things we like to encourage. We exist, and our stories are valid. They can save us, and save others.
Paul, in Starling, is a runner too, for these very same reasons. So your coping mechanism made me smile today.
Ooh, yes? I love books that get into the heads of runners! (And I have not read many, so feel free to recommend them if you have them). There’s a lot in there. We’re like…masochistic philosophers sometimes.
It’s not a huge plot point, or barely one at all, but you do see it, and it’s maybe the first thing we realized we knew about Paul. And I think it does hint at a lot about how he processes stuff!
I have always expected rejection because it seems to be all I have ever had in areas that matter the most to me. That is fine, I suppose. Even though childhood has left my emerging adulthood life bare of confidence, I am trying really push past that and do a thing, anyway. I am trying to recognize that nothing will happen for me without active pursuit, which includes a sea of rejection on the way. However, everyone who hears I want to spend my life writing always gets a pitying or condescending look, thinking, “She’ll never make it. Poor thing.” The only thing I really have a firm grasp on is my pride and every rejection I get is like confirmation that they are right. I am just not sure how long I can brace against the negativity I am feeling and do the work anyway.
I am inclined to agree that it is not a race, but sometimes it can feel like it. I feel like I need to quickly prove myself not just to say “screw you” to them, but to let myself know that it is okay to keep spending so much time writing instead of achieving complete independence as soon as possible. I think I am in a position where I will have to “prove myself” to a certain person soon or have to stop. I want to be okay with getting no’s and be rational about it, but it makes me so anxious.
Harry Potter got rejected — what was it, 17 times? Mark Ruffalo went on a thousand auditions before he got a part. No one can tell you you’re done except you. As long as you want the thing, go after the fucking thing. You’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.
Rejections absolutely suck. But it’s a rejection based business, and as we say around here, if you aren’t getting nos, you’re not doing enough. And it is never, ever a race.
It can still be hard and it took practice, but now when I get a no, I give myself 20 minutes to feel sorry for myself. Then I channel the frustration and the disappointment back into the work. So project X didn’t fit opportunity Y? I’ll find three other places I can send it to. Does my strategy for this project need reevaluation? Let’s see what’s the best way to serve this particular beast. And so on.
Pursuing what you want is worthy, and good. So keep doing the thing — we are here cheering you on.
Erin beat me to the Mark Ruffalo trivia, but used actual words. I might have just shouted his name at you in text.
Stories like that are more typical than not. So much of this game — or any game — is about attrition and surviving it.
People who give you looks of pity because you have ambitions are often pitying themselves. If you do it, why didn’t they? The narrative is so often internal. We are told we have to settle as opposed to craft a way to be who we want to be and do what we want to do.
Like Erin says, you keep going as long as you want to, regardless of no. And whenever you need to be told to keep going anyway, that you and your work is worth it, just come here and we’ll say so. Because it is. If it matters this much to you to feel this way about it, it’s going to matter to someone else too.
This is a marvelous post, ladies, and always important to keep in mind. I do find that I say “Yes!” quite often and I can almost always trace it to that determination to say “Yes!” to disappointment, criticism, lack of support or other difficulties or roadblocks in my writing life (and life, in general). Maybe it’s my feisty Scottish genes, or my competitive nature, but my mental response tends to be – in the face of disappointment – “Fine, you can’t beat me! I’ll just work harder and show you that you can’t keep me from success.” Or something along that line. Rejection makes me gird my loins and battle on. Life has shown me that if I don’t keep fighting, there’s no chance at all of winning! Good luck to all us fighters!
On the good days, we totally do that too. It’s a great attitude, and turns even the nos into a resource — energy to keep doing more. So go you, and keep on fighting the good fight!
Yes! Awesome! And Thank you.
When we get a no, I wallow. For about two hous. And I have a firm 24 hour wallow limit. Then it’s back in the fight!
I’m currently moving between several fannish WIPs and one piece of original short fiction. In fandom, even when I’m writing something totally self-indulgent, it’s still out there for communal perusal and enjoyment – writing is participating in community. Writing original fiction feels like I’m sitting in a box. I can’t tell whether letting it chill on the backburner while I write fannish things that bring me and others joy is chickening out, or whether diverting energy from my fannish stuff is letting my community down. Impasse! (By which I mean, I’ll just distract myself with how everything is Natasha Romanoff and nothing hurts.)
Oh yes, we know. Erin and I have an advantage because we are telling the story to each other. It’s always a little less isolating. I think there’s no reason not to have a critique partner for first reader for your original work that can help you feel like you’re less isolated when creating it.