I hate admitting that I’ve failed at something. It’s hard for me to be the eternal optimist and say “Well that was a great experience, so who cares if I didn’t hit the mark.” I desperately want to hit the mark every fucking time. Most of us know that it isn’t possible to succeed at everything and I should know better than to set myself up to believe that every time I try something, I will have the exact outcome I desire. Yet, I still do. This week, the Universe slapped me upside the head and I had to take a step back and decide if I would dive head first in the belief that I sucked large hairy ball sacs or if I could learn from this experience and move on. Today I accept that I failed and I’m sort of okay.
The first time I heard about Listen To Your Mother was at The Erma Bombeck Writing Workshop last year. Another writer had been a part of the show in California and she had sent me a link to a video where she read her piece. It was heartbreaking and moving and I thought “I would love to be a part of something like that.” Last month I searched online and found out that the auditions for the LTYM Utah were coming up very soon, so I signed up to audition and wrote my piece. Then I hated my piece. Then I sent my piece to my friend Amy so she could help me pinpoint what was wrong with it. “You are going in too many places. Focus on the most important scene and work on that angle.” That’s pretty close to what she said and she was right. But I couldn’t figure out the best way to write that angle, so I put it aside for a couple of days. Then one night, as I was laying in bed exhausted from going full speed since 7 AM, it hit me. I knew exactly how to write it, how to begin with a punch and wrap it up with a pretty bow. I stayed up until 3 AM writing and it felt so great because I knew it was perfect and I knew I would get a spot. Guaranteed. Exhaustion would be worth it when I was having the experience of reading my piece in front of hundreds of people. Finally, I would be a real writer. This is how I began digging myself a very deep, very deadly hole. The hole of expectation.
(I was recently rejected for a couple of other things, so if you are interested in knowing about that…click here. You would think I would be a professional at dealing with this kind of crap. I’m not.)
On the day of my audition, I had second and third and fourth thoughts about going. “What if my piece isn’t good enough?” “What if I stumble as I read it or fart on accident?” And I went anyway. I posted a picture of myself on FB and Instagram telling everyone how I was auditioning for this thing and I was nervous and how much I really wanted it. And the hole got deeper. My nerves gave me a massive stomach ache, but I went into that library where the auditions were held and I waited at a miniature table until the lovely woman in charge came out to meet me.
“Tell me a little about yourself and why you are auditioning.” So I did and then she asked me to read my piece and I felt so proud of it because it was about my mom and how amazingly strong she is and how she dealt with a really abusive relationship. At the end of my reading I became a bit teary and finished up without breathing for about 90 seconds for fear I would sob uncontrollably for hours afterwards. And I just knew I had a spot. This lovely woman said “That is a very painful piece and you turned it into something so touching. Whatever happens, don’t stop writing.” After my audition, I went into the closest bathroom and cried tears of joy. “Finally,” I thought, “someone sees the value in my writing and they don’t even know me.” The hole I was working on was getting frighteningly close to the magma layer of the Earth’s center. “This is it, the thing that will finally cement my place as a real writer.” Cause apparently, I don’t think I am.
I called my mom and my husband and I sent a text to Amy. “I feel so great about my audition.” Then it was time to wait. And wait. And wait. And while I waited, I watched on Facebook as tons of my writer friends were not accepted into their respective LTYM shows. Folks who had been accepted for years, writers who have far more talent under their belt than I do, and all the while I kept thinking “Well, this is my year. I know i have a spot.” At that point the hole got so deep that I couldn’t see any light and I would need to climb the Empire State Building three times just to get out. Failure wasn’t an option. But that’s just not realistic.
Monday night my husband prompted me to check my email one more time. “I bet they have sent you your acceptance now.” I had checked it a thousand times over the course of three days. So frequently, I was sure Gmail was going to send me a message with a strict warning “Please limit the times you check your inbox to fewer than 500 per hour to allow for others to check their’s as well. Thank you.” When I checked that night, there was an email from the woman in charge of LTYM and it started with “Thank you so much for auditioning for Listen To Your Mother Utah.” And my stomach dropped. I already knew what the second paragraph would say because I’ve used the shit sandwich technique to manage people in other jobs. Sandwich the shit between two slices of good news. “Unfortunately, your piece was not selected.” And the hole was so deep that I just cried. Instead of celebrating the experience of auditioning and writing and meeting a new person and putting myself out there, I just wept at the idea that I wasn’t good enough.
Yesterday, I spent the morning with my mom complaining and bitching and feeling sorry for myself because sometimes that is what I need in order to move on. I was mad at everything including my mom’s ridiculously small toaster. “This thing can’t even toast a whole freaking bagel.” Then I stomped my foot and poured myself a mimosa the size of Big Gulp. Thankfully, I talked and listened to my mom. “You are a writer. What would happen if you just did your stuff for two months without worrying about the outcome?” She asked, as I guzzled enough champagne to topple an elephant. Light bulb. I have never done that. I write and work with the end result in mind, instead of enjoying the process…enjoying the experience. I didn’t make the cut for LTYM, but the experience of auditioning was awesome. It was outside of my comfort zone and I wrote a piece I think can work into my book. It’s not a failure, it’s just an experience. And, yes, it still hurts today…but a little less. I’m slowly climbing my way out of the hole of expectation I had dug for myself and I think by the end of the week I will be ready to ask the Universe “What’s next?”
If you are a writer who is interested in submitting to a very hip, kinda edgy and always funny site, may I suggest In The Powder Room. My piece, Circus Boobs, was my first post over there and it’s been a great experience. So great, that I emailed the editor to tell her how my blog views and Twitter following had gone cray cray and she created a graphic with my silly words. Check it out here, along with how you too, can write for ITPR.