Doing something you’ve never done before is a lot like high diving. If we’re brave, we eventually take the plunge, knowing we have little control over the outcome. That takes a lot of courage.
But what if you take that jump and completely bomb? What if your imagined swan dive turns out to be a belly flop? Worse, what if everyone sees?
This past weekend I attended the Pennwriters 2019 conference, a weekend of workshops for both aspiring and published authors. I have a manuscript I’ve been working on for almost five years, and it’s just about ready to see the light of day. In an effort to bring my baby out into the world, I sat down with a literary agent at the conference and tried to sell her my book.
I belly flopped. Hard.
It was my first time pitching in front of a professional, and it turns out writing a book and selling it are two very distinct skill sets. I sat in front of that agent and gave her a run-down of my novel. When I was finished, she leaned forward, looked me in the eye, and said, “May I give you some pitch advice?”
I left that pitch session and went up to my hotel room feeling like the biggest loser. I crawled under the covers and let the weight of my humiliation wash over me. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. I think I mostly didn’t cry because I was just stunned.
And then my friend came upstairs and I told her what had happened. I expected her to hug me and commiserate, and she did offer her sympathies. But then she said, “Well, you have this pitch advice. Take it and get back in there!”
I balked. It’s one thing to leap into the unknown, blissfully unaware of the possible consequences. It’s quite another to dive in when you know exactly how much it hurts to miss and hit the ground.
And, yet, what did I have to lose?
I climbed out of bed, reworked my pitch, and made an appointment with someone new. I was literally shaking with fear as I went into the room for my new pitch session. I didn’t even try to hide it. I told that industry professional exactly what had happened the first time, and told her I’d reworked my pitch and would like to try again. And then I high dived.
Long story shirt, I’m the proud new recipient of a partial request. She asked me to send her my first three chapters.
But. Can I be totally and scandalously honest? It could just as easily have gone the other way. I could have gotten a second rejection. And here’s the secret: I still would have won. Because I didn’t let fear get to me. I gave it the finger and said, “Not today.”
With that in mind, I’m jumping back into this blog, which I’ve sadly let slip by the wayside for over a year. (OVER A YEAR!) Life got busy, but more than that. I became afraid that people would lose interest. That people would get too close. That I would belly flop and everyone would see.
But even belly flops can be beautiful. Even belly flops can be a win. Here’s to diving back in and second chances!
Literal diving on hotel beds
P.S.!!!! I completely forgot to mention I won first place in the Novel Beginning contest because I am just that modest and wonderful. (Except replace "modest" and "wonderful" with "flaky" and "sleep-deprived" and also "can't find the strike-through font".)