A Year in Review

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Two days until we put to rest 2022, and I’m currently engaged in a battle with myself, whether or not this was a year of positive net.

It certainly was one of the most interesting ones I’ve survived.

On the bright and beautiful side, I pushed myself farther and to greater heights with my writing than I ever had before. I took chances and got out of my comfort zone, and thank goddess for that. Because those investments in myself and explorations into new experiences led me to some of the best connections I’ve made, the dearest of friends, more published pieces I’ve had in the last five years combined, and a publishing contract with a company I believe in. https://www.5princebooks.com/sarahreichert.html

Not only that, but when I put my fear of rejection aside, and made a deal with my writing bestie (Rebecca Cuthbert) I succeeded in my goal of 100 rejections for the year (along with about 15 acceptances that I’m so grateful for). My work was featured in awesome and quirky journals and sites and some even were accepted in more traditional venues. I co-wrote my first romance with my wonderful friend and mentor Kerrie Flanagan . I learned a lot about myself as a writer, how to manage my time in a busy world, how to write in different genres and formats, and how to shrug off the worry of failure. I learned that I can do things. Hard things. New things. Interesting things. Things I never even imagined. I learned that I can do whatever. I. Set. My. Mind. To.

On the darker side of things, I was, and still am engaging in a battle with my daughter’s worsening OCD. It is a constant in our lives and I am in a cyclical ride of refilling and emptying out my patience levels, trying to find and give to her compassion on the daily, reassurances to the virulent voices in her head that tell her on repeat horrible things will happen if she doesn’t follow its asinine rules. (More Info Here) I have to put aside my own anxieties and depression, I have to square my shoulders and tuck away my own mental strains so that I can be a solid rock for her during this ongoing storm. In turn, these pressures have left me very little space for other people’s bullshit, and maybe that’s a good thing.

I’ve become aware that I no longer tolerate the levels of injustice I used to. I no longer tolerate the levels of disrespect and flagrant wasting of my time that some people think is acceptable. That I’m not going to let assholes go on being assholes without telling them they’re being assholes. And I’ve come across some doozies in the last few months.

Not for the first time, I got a taste of gender imbalance and misogyny in my outside-of-writing-profession. It’s disheartening, especially, when it comes from men in a position of trust who have been my supposed ‘family’ for so long. It reminded me that the imbalance of power in our culture is always in play, no matter how safe you think a business or place is. I watched as a world that was once my sanctuary turned into a dark place where people I once trusted, threw dirt on the grave of my autonomy and denied my worth as a human being.

I’m still battling with if I should stay at my instructor position for the sake of the children and other females in the school. Is their instruction and safety worth more than having to put up with the culture that would allow and overlook frightening behavior and disrespect? Still battling over that one, and I guess if I give myself time to think (as I’m doing this week from social media) I will arrive at the solution that is the best for myself and the people I care about most.

But I have my writing, and I have my friends, and I have people who have stood by me and loved me and shook their fists for me when I just wanted to curl up and die. And that’s not nothing. Years like this teach you who your allies are. And who you should not put your faith or your respect in. They teach you who will stand by your side, and who will throw you under the bus, for their own personal gain. And that knowledge is not nothing either.

So as you look into the new year, I urge you to not forget the lessons you’ve learned. I urge you to write your own story. One worthy of you. I ask that you take leaps of faith, and do things outside of your comfort zone. I ask that you let yourself get rejected and keep moving forward. I ask that you let loose your imposter syndrome and know that you and your art are more than enough to be shared.

In this new year, surround yourself with people who put your safety in mind and value your worth. I urge you to stand up for the friend in need of some fist shaking. I urge you to not put up with anymore bullshit, especially the hateful, uneducated, dehumanizing kind. Use your heads, use your hearts. Build this year, 365 single days at a time, and find something at the end of it that has made you outgrow a little more of the old you.

Choose what to carry, and what to let go. Some things are too heavy, but more than their weight, they don’t belong to you. They are not yours; they serve no purpose to you or to the greater good of the world. They are merely weights that keep you from getting to where you’re meant to be. So know when to let them go, and don’t berate yourself for leaving them behind. Sometimes the absolutely strongest thing we can do, isn’t to keep holding on. It’s in the letting go. So you will have both hands open for the next, better opportunity.

Opportunities, Potential, and Failure

I’m winging today’s post. It’s due tomorrow and I really didn’t have a direction to head (did I mention I lost my blog ‘plan’ for the year–there will be a lot of winging it in the next couple of months). So today, I wanted to talk about opportunity, our own potential, and reframing failure.

What do all of those things have to do with writing? So very much.

Whether you write for the love and fun of it, for yourself, for a small base of fans, for your dog, or for millions of avid readers, we are all engaged in a delicate balance of these three elements. Let’s take a look at them from a writerly perspective.

Opportunities

As a writer, or artist of any sort, when you decide to commit to your craft for whatever end result, you should look at ways to not just get those words in, but to improve them, challenge your writing’s boundaries, and explore different dimensions. Examples of creating and pursuing opportunities include:

  1. Submitting your work to journals, newsletters, publishers, or any other outside source for consideration.
  2. Signing up for classes, workshops, critique groups, retreats and conferences
  3. Writing outside of your genre or comfort zone as an exploration (you can do this concurrently with the two suggestions above)
  4. Sign up to give talks, open mic nights, teach a class (adult, young adult, children) about what you do know that would be helpful for other writers/artists.

The key to opportunity is to not limit yourself by your own doubt. You may see a dozen different submission calls, or invitations to teach or whatever, but if you’re constantly thinking your work won’t be good enough, your experience not deep enough, then you won’t ever put yourself out there. And the fact is, opportunities are rarely about stumbling into the ‘right place/right time’, they are usually more about putting yourself in the right place and the right time (creating and fostering the glints of opportunity you do find). So don’t limit your potential with self doubt. You never know what you’re capable of until you step up and try. That leads us to:

Potential

I’ll tell you the only real thing I know about human potential. It’s limitless.

Often times we are held back by our beliefs, our history, our trauma and our fears. Any thing ever in our life that told us we were not good enough, undeserving, or powerless, seeps in and builds little walls inside our brain. And we often think that once we reach those walls, that we are at the end of our capabilities. Reframing how you think about your potential is the key to opening up new roads. How do you reframe? Well, I guess first you have to set your sights on something without killing it.

How often do we tell ourselves, “I can’t do that”, “That’s impossible”, “That won’t work” even before we let ourselves think through the logistics? Probably a lot. Now–I’m not saying that EVERYTHING is possible. We can’t time travel (yet) and change mistakes from our past (why would you want to?). We can’t/shouldn’t aim for goals that hurt or destroy others. I’m saying in the field of your writing, you have no idea what you’re capable of.

So find out what drives you, what you want, what you dream of and write it all down (you’re a writer after all). Follow it up with small and manageable goals that move you forward, a little each day. This is the way we get over those walls. By building a ladder, one rung at a time, by destroying the wall, one brick at a time. Stay constant, stay consistent. And remember that self-doubt is an insult to your potential. If you want something, if you’re willing to work for it, then you deserve it and are capable of having it.

Well, that little pep talk was kind of exhausting let’s move on to my favorite of the three.

Failure

Failure! Fuck yes. Failure is my favorite and I’ll tell you why. Because failure means you were reaching for something better, something impossible, something unlikely and unsure. Failure means you stepped past your line of ‘acceptable risk’ and went rogue. Failure means you believed in something strongly enough to leap over that wall blocking your way. Failure is never a failure.

I’m already 102 submissions into my 100 rejections in a year challenge. Before I started this challenge, every rejection letter I got was a tiny little knife in the heart. A potential dream killer, a step closer to hanging up my pen and getting a real job. But you come to learn a few things:

  1. Failure is rarely fatal. (Ok–there is a disclaimer that you can totally fail something and end up killing yourself, so let’s not get into any discussions of Evil-Knievel stunts) Getting a rejection letter, even the worst and harshest one imaginable, will not kill you. But it may just teach you something.
  2. Failure teaches us. Failures aren’t setbacks as long as we learn something from them. Look I’ve had this kooky little story that I love, rejected like 40 times. Which tells me that even though I love it, there is something missing or needing cleaned up about it. I’m learning what makes a better story every time I write and send out a ‘less-good’ story. I learn that I can tweak and re-read and edit and cut out what doesn’t work. I learn to send it to the right markets. I learn to follow the submission guidelines. I learn that maybe my freak-flag is too much for some. Maybe it’s not enough for others.
  3. Repeated failure is a lesson book that you can take with you. In writing, especially, you learn what works and what does not. In life it is the same. And we gain these lessons and this experience from exploring and creating the opportunities for ourselves.

And just like that, I brought it full circle. Opportunity, Potential, Failure–rinse and repeat.

Go out there today and find or make an opportunity. Submit someplace new. Query an agent. Finish that novel. Get through that hard scene. None of these things need to be pretty or perfect. But they do need to get done.

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