Letting The Experience Be Enough: How I Failed & Am Sort of Okay

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.

Flashback to when I was over confident. Good times.

Flashback to when I was over confident. Good times.

“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.

Looky Loo, I'm emerging from the pit of despair.

Looky Loo, I’m emerging from the pit of despair.

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.  




10 thoughts on “Letting The Experience Be Enough: How I Failed & Am Sort of Okay

  1. Leslie

    I’m so sorry about the LTYM rejection Mandy. I know that hurts. I bet it was more about the overall flow of the show and not because of you or your specific piece. I’ve had to reject a lot of really talented writers for our website and books, and it’s usually because of timing or the way the pieces fit together. Every no brings you closer to the right YES. Remember that.

    And speaking of the right yes, you and your Circus Boobs are always welcome “In the Powder Room.” I think you’re wonderful! (Thank you Amy Sherman for introducing us!)

    1. Mandy Brasher Post author

      Thank you, Leslie…I think you are pretty wonderful yourself. Me and my circus boobs feel pretty damn lucky to be on the INPR shortlist. Amy already knows she’s the shit, so don’t give her any more compliments…her head is so big she can barely fit out the front door. :)
      (Fine…she’s fucking fantastic and I’m glad she introduced us as well.)

  2. Michelle King

    UGH! I know that it is no consolation but I wasn’t even asked to read my piece this year. Major bummer. I feel you sister. I hope that you post what you wrote because I would love to read it!

    1. Mandy Brasher Post author

      It’s a bummer feeling for sure. I heard from someone in the know that they auditioned 200 people for the show here. That should make me feel better, but it just reminds me that my story didn’t beat out those 200 people. Which is yet another kick to baby maker. Whatevs…time to move on.
      I’m using the piece in my book so I won’t be posting it on the blog. But when I finish my book in 2038, I will be sure to send you a copy. Love ya, lady.

  3. Amy Sherman

    Wow. Your hole digging was delightfully descriptive. I am thankful to k ow how good your audition piece really is. And I know it will kick ass in however you use it in your book.

    Your mom is a brilliant support system. And yes, you are a motherfucking writer. Welcome back to the surface to write another day. I know I don’t want you to stop. Ever.

    1. Mandy Brasher Post author

      ‘Motherfucking Writer’ I need to make a giant poster with that written in huge cheerleader letters. I can hang in front of my computer for those days when I forget why I’m doing what I’m doing. Which is every day.
      I know you won’t let me stop writing, so fuck you. And thank you. xoxoxo

  4. Donna Carol Voss

    I know this is easy for me to say, but in the immortal words of Garth Brooks, “Some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers.”

    Your blog post is wonderful. You have a unique talent for raw, funny, pragmatic, and spicy. I have no idea why you don’t think you’re a writer.

    You have no idea how really “seen” you already are. Let your own vision catch up.

    1. Mandy Brasher Post author

      Get back to me when Garth Brooks informs us on how to get over those unanswered prayers in a timely fashion and without a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.
      Thank you for reading and commenting. Sending good vibes to you and the other lovely women participating in LTYM Utah.

  5. Jenn Belden

    In my book, getting there and presenting it is a win in itself.
    I wrote and rewrote…and hated everything I put on paper and on the computer.
    In the end, I didn’t even sign up for LTYM Austin.
    Yep, I chickened out completely because I had a vision of the nice lady saying “thank you very much but that was just painful. Please don’t come back until you can write.”

    So you are a winner in my book for sticking your neck out AND I think your mother is brilliant.
    Here’s looking to next year!

    1. Mandy Brasher Post author

      “Please don’t come back until you can write.” YES!!! That’s my constant fear every single time I let anyone read anything. Is that a consistent feeling for most writers?
      I completely understand chickening out, I’m chickening out on my book right now. Much easier to answer blog comments and watch YouTube videos than tackle that project. Thank you so much for your kind words and yes…next year for sure.

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