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Fantasies, Rejection, And Conviction
My epiphany this week
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I had this perfect plan for what I was posting today and decided to blow it all up at the 11th hour. But this week’s epiphany is bursting out of me and know it will resonate. Enjoy!
Fantasies, Rejection, And Conviction
I realized something this week.
I credit the course with helping me rediscover my passion for writing, daring me to publish, and turning writing from a hobby into a vocation.
This week’s topic was distribution. If you are writing and publishing your ideas, you should be as intentional about this part of the process as the craft of creation. If you’ve made a masterpiece, how will the world know what you’ve done? Not everyone has a Theo & Jo Van Gogh2.
But for me distribution is a dirty word–a filthy concept. I’ve avoided thinking about it like I’ve avoided replacing the janky cabinet door in my bathroom (sorry, Mom).
I’ve hidden behind the well-intended mantra: “Focus on your craft.”
I told myself that when my writing became consistent and worth reading, I could then tackle the distribution piece. My secret hope was that distribution would somehow take care of itself.
In the words of comedian Steve Martin: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
But I’ve just realized I’ve been living in a fantasy.
La La Land
Here is my fantasy. My La La Land3:
An edition of this lovely newsletter would find its way to the computer screen of some Big Shot Person. Big Shot Person would read it and go “wow, this guy can write!” drop everything they are doing, and share my work with their billion followers. Spiritual fulfillment and global admiration would ensue.
I realize how passive and irrational this fantasy is. I’m looking for a savior, someone who will “discover” me and promote me as if I was Nirvana playing in at 11 Central Saloon. And this does happen. Sometimes you do get discovered by doing nothing more than putting your work on a website, tweeting something interesting, etc.
But there is a difference between aspirations and expectations. I can aspire that this happens, but I cannot expect that it will happen. Virality is a nebulous event.
Instead, I have the opportunity to be more proactive in sharing my writing, engaging authentically, and like everything in life…putting myself out there and risk rejection.
Rejection is one of my nastiest nemesises4.
Most people have some fear of rejection, but I happen to be more sensitive and love-seeking than the average person. It is my primal desire. And my fear of rejection is augmented by the stinging romantic rejections I’ve experienced which stick on my mind like lint on a wool sweater.
Oddly enough, I thought I had overcome this fear by working in Tech Sales for 7+ years and getting told off in multiple ways (one time, someone replied to my cold email with “lalalalala I can’t hear you!!!”). Many of the things I dread to do now were things I did well at my former job.
What made sending a cold email easier under the Google domain than under “Camilo The Writer"?
I believed in the product and how it could help people. And the Google brand was renown enough that even if you were skeptical on whether we could really help, I would at least get a conversation.
In my case, I don’t have enough conviction about my writing. Am I sharing my writing? Of course, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. Am I sharing it with the conviction of a Bitcoin zealot telling you that it will not go down to zero no matter what? Not quite.5
Luckily, I listened to a conversation between Seth Godin and Tim Ferriss yesterday where Seth talked about the rejection he experienced early in his career as a writer:
“I started my own gig and just kept failing at the book business. Chip Conley and I did our first book together and then I got 800 rejections letters in a row. That meant everyday I opened the mailbox and three people had taken the time to write me a letter with my name on it and put a stamp on it saying ‘we don’t like your project, and we don’t like you either.’”
Being rejected that many times is my nightmare scenario.
How did Seth keep going after 800 rejections?
Give Your Heart!
A bit later in the interview, Seth dropped this gem:
“When the rejections feel personal, if you don’t have a way to keep caring… but understand that what they are rejecting is the work, not the person, it’s super easy to give up. And that was the transition I needed to make.”
There is more here than just Seth’s wise separation between the work and the person. The way “to keep caring” that Seth alludes to is conviction. He truly believed that he needed to put his work out there, that the world deserved to see it, and that it would be valuable.
I know that courage is action despite the presence of fears, that good things are hard, that those who take action tend to win in the long-term. I know all of this. But this knowledge, learned through endless podcasts and self-help books is irrelevant in that pivotal moment where the fear of rejection kicks in.
Conviction is what saves us from our existing scripts about our worthiness and marrying our identity to our output. It helps counter that fight-or-flight mode than can swell our faces red anytime we are about to shoot our shot.
Conviction is when the upside of what’s at the other side of fear is so compelling and meaningful that you have no choice but to pursue it. Letting fear reign would be like holding your breath.
There is a recurring scene from my favorite anime, Attack on Titan6, that is definition of conviction for me. Anytime the Scouts (soldiers) are heading for a certain-death battle against the Titans, they dutifully obey their rallying war cry: “Shinzou wo sasageyo,” which roughly means “Give your heart.”
Perhaps it’s overkill to compare this to the conviction I need to have in my writing. And this reflection is not to be a “woe is me” moment. I know I’m not alone in dealing with this tension. I’m not alone in being crippled by the fear of rejection.
This goes beyond writing, it’s about how we live our lives, and how we could all benefit from finding conviction and helping overcome our fears. I don’t have a straight answer, but I do believe conviction can only be built through action.
So as I get ready to face my own distribution Titans (and get wrecked a few times), I will look at the mirror and say:
Shinzou wo sasageyo!
Thanks for reading this piece. Would be pretty cool if you wrote your email down here… *winks and walks away*
Media Worth Consuming
How To Grow A Following Without Compromising Everything Good In Your Life by Michelle Varghoose: I feel like Michelle wrote this essay for me. It’s a heartening take from someone who is enjoying well-deserved success and is kind enough to light the path she has traveled. If the piece above resonated with you, then you have to read this.
The Misfortunes of Being Mere Mortal by Haley Brengartner: I mean, with a title like that you kinda have to read this, right? Haley’s moving piece is one of the best writing manifestos I’ve ever read. It’s all heart. It’s all love. It’s worth multiple reads.
Due Vite by Marco Mengoni: Did you know I’m a Eurovision fan? Well now you do. And what started as this thing I watched once with my ex is now a “can’t miss” event. I’m biased towards Italy (they always bring it), and this year’s song is no different. It’s a ballad with uplifting tones and sad lyrics (oh the tension), and the perfect drunk karaoke chorus “Se questa è l’ultima
Canzone e poi la luna esploderà…”
Photo of the Week
I bought this set of tarot-looking cards called Art Oracles. This set of cards written by Katya Tylevich and illustrated by Mikkel Sommer provide a beautiful dose of inspiration from 50 different artists including Van Gogh, Picasso, Mondrian, Kusama, Arbus, Klimt, and many others. I’ve gotten in the habit of drawing a random card every day. This was the card I got yesterday.
Until next time!
Ps. Oh yea, I’m dropping the whole Tangent #X from the title of this newsletter moving forward. Just felt like it was time to mix it up.
Write of Passage is an cohort-based online course that teaches you to write online, connects you to some of the kindest, most curious people on the planet, and helps your transform your life so that you are open to serendipity and maximize your potential (whatever that means to you). I can’t recommend it enough and am happy to talk to anyone about it.
Not only was Theo Van Gogh (Vincent’s brother) bankrolling and being the best hype man for Vincent, he was also pivotal in promoting Dutch and French artists, including Vincent. Sadly, he died 6 months after his Vincent’s tragic death. Theo’s widow, Jo Van Gogh-Bonger, took on Theo’s mission to promote Vincent’s work. She didn’t do too bad.
City of Stars from the La La Land movie soundtrack is going to be the first dance song at my wedding. That’s my only requirement. All the other things I will yield to my future partner. She wants Emperor penguins dressed as peacocks corralling guests to take their seats which just happen to be magenta and green velvet sofas placed in the exact layout as the original Copacabana club? A bit weird, kinda tacky, probably expensive, but fine, whatever–as long as we dance to City of Stars.
This is not a commentary on Bitcoin. Please don’t come after me Internet trolls.
This show is a masterpiece. I won’t spoil it, but the manga-turned-anime is about humans that live on an island and have to face these humanoid giants called Titans, or face extinction. Through their fight against these Titans, we learn about fear, war, betrayal, sacrifice, and many other universal themes that make this show a classic.