I love this movie. It makes me cry every time I see it – Billy facing up to all sorts of obstacles and prejudices, and then making his dream come true. When he gets his acceptance letter and is almost too nervous to read it, goes into another room and shuts the door so he can be alone, and then cries and says simply, “I got in” through his tears when his family comes to check on him – well, it’s a moment anyone who has ever worked hard at something creative longs for. That moment when someone, somewhere, someone in authority, someone who knows finally acknowledges that you’ve got talent, agrees to give you a chance, and even help you along.
But what if Billy hadn’t gotten in? Or even worse to me, what if Billy had gotten in and found out that the Royal Ballet School was a bunch of malarkey? That the Royal Ballet School had kind of sucky teachers who weren’t really interested in helping him become the best ballet dancer he could be? Maybe they didn’t pay attention because he was a boy, or because he was from a poor town, whatever. What would Billy do then? I have no doubt that in the movie, Billy would have just brushed himself off and kept on dancing. But in real life, when all too often we don’t “get in,” how do you keep going in the face of such disappointment?
In my case, replace Billy’s dancing with writing, the only difference being that I didn’t get a lot of support and started to do it seriously much later in life than I would like. But I’m doing it, working hard, blah, blah. When disappointments come my way, I try to deal with them by applying the old skater creed, “Acknowledge and Move On.” **
This works well for run of the mill disappointments. Story rejections, say. I brush them off, look at the rejected piece again, and if I think it needs changes, I make them; if I don’t, I send it elsewhere. Sometimes, though, when it’s something I want oh so badly, and I come oh so close to getting it, the “acknowledge” portion can really out weight the “move on” portion of the show.
I know all the arguments – getting close is better than a lot of people ever get; it’s a good sign that you are, well, close to where you want to be. The logical wisdom is to take seconds to acknowledge and then move on quickly, decisively, and boldly. Because you’re close. You’ve got momentum.
More often, though, I turn the whole thing inward. Those thisclose experiences can shut me down for a long, long time, and the bigger they are and the closer I come, the harder the trap door slams when things don’t quite work out. I don’t send stuff out unless it’s my best (99.9% of the time, anyway – there have been a couple of 3AM submissions to places where I was just too tired and too over it to care anymore) so if it comes back with a so-close rejection, I tend to spiral a bit. The internal monologue becomes, “That’s it. That’s the best I can do. I’m good, apparently, but not good enough.”
Not Good Enough. Are there any crueler words than those three?
Feeling not good enough sometimes makes me want to give up. To throw my hands up in the air, stomp my feet, put on some Patsy Cline and wail. I tend to be a bit of a drama queen, but I am serious when I say that the “not good enough” shit really, seriously trips me up.
How do you deal with it? Wallow a few days, flip the world a big bird and move on? Crumple up the letter, smile widely and get to work, faking it till you make it? Stick a hot fork in your eye and swear to kill yourself if ONE MORE PERSON rejects your work?
Okay, that last one isn’t an option. But I’ve tried the first two, and both feel like just what they are – faking it. I’ve not mastered the art of turning faking into making. Am I just weak? Do I give up too easily?
I don’t know. I’m still chugging along, but some days – a lot of days – it feels pretty pointless. Getting an MBA begins to sound like a good idea. Never writing another word begins to sound like a relief.
So, help a sister out, will you? Give me some ideas. I know some of you must feel these things, too. How do you overcome?
** That may or may not be an official Skater Creed. All I know is a hot skater boy with floppy bangs used to say it all the time, so it works for me.