Moments I Wish I’d Celebrated Better
Posted by Asa Maria Bradley
When we dream big, it’s easy to lose sight of the successes that happen on the way to our big goals. As I prepare for the release date of my debut novel, I realize there were plenty of moments on my path to publication that I should have celebrated instead of being discouraged by rejections and other setbacks. I should have had cake, or at least put on a tiara.
You probably have experienced the same or similar unrecognized triumphs in your own creative journey. So, please join me in celebrating these moments of significance and success:
First time someone called us artist/painter/musician/writer/etc. My friend Holly was the first person to call me a writer. She did it while explaining something I now can’t remember, but when she said “us writers,” it took me a moment to realize she included me in that group and it floored me. I’d never before thought of myself as a writer, I wasn’t confident enough to do so.
First time someone we shared our work. The first time I submitted my work for a critique, I was shaking with nerves. Luckily, I’d found a supporting and nurturing critique group who were honest and constructive in their feedback, but never hurtful. With their help, my writing became stronger and I started producing regularly enough
First query or pitch. I pitched before I ever queried, and it was a disaster. Luckily I had a strong community of other writers who supported and encouraged me to keep going. And I had more disappointments, but also some successes.
First rejection letter addressed to us personally. Before I received my first “Dear Ms. Bradley” rejection, I had a stack of query letters that were simply stamped with “no” or “rejected.” In that pile there were also a few “Dear Writer” ones (those did not fill me with the same joy as when my friend used that title).
First rejection letter with feedback. Only other creative people understand that there are good and bad rejection letters. Good rejection letters contain encouragement, maybe some praise, and best of all, suggestions for how to make your work better. My first good rejection letter contained phrases like “loved the opening” and “see a lot of promise in your writing,” but also “didn’t feel the chemistry between your hero and heroine.”
First request. Actually, we probably celebrated this one, whether it was a partial or a full, but let’s put it on the list and celebrate it again, because it is a big one. Mine was a partial request that turned into a request for more chapters, and ultimately a very nice rejection.
First time we performed. The first time I read my writing in public, I was so nervous I lost my place twice. A very kind and patient audience had to wait while my very shaky finger found the line where I’d left off.
First time someone else performed our work. This happened just about a year ago for me during a workshop. It was done anonymously, so nobody else in the room knew who’d written the pages. My words coming out of another person’s mouth sent chills down my spine. It was such a nerve-racking and yet thrilling experience.
Every time we create new work. Being creative requires sacrifice. We give up time with our family and friends, TV watching, reading, and other fun activities. And we do this despite rejections and other disappointments. From now on, you should acknowledge how big of an accomplishment sitting down to create really is. It is truly a moment worth both a tiara and cake.
What moments of your journey do you wish you’d celebrated better?