Updated: Jul 4, 2019
I was standing at the back of a long line of women who all seemed to have beautiful, long hair and perfect makeup they certainly must have spent forty-five minutes minimum on. I mean, I looked okay, except for the fact that my hair chose that very moment to become electrified and stick straight out, thanks to my nemesis static electricity. I looked like one of those kids who touch the Tesla coil ball at the science museum—that thing that makes their hair frizz out like they could be Einstein’s great grandchild. And of course the line was to take headshots. I was sure I was going to be known as "Tesla coil girl." The caption under my head shot would read: Hire me, folks. I’m absolutely electrifying.
But it wasn’t just the hair. The evening was a networking event for local businesswomen, and I should have expected this, but they all talked like businesswomen. “Value adds” and “budgets” and “synergy.” They talked about negotiating raises and leading teams of employees. I thought they were all such strong, successful businesswomen—but who was I? Tesla coil girl, the woman who works from home, all alone, reading books all day while her dog sleeps under her desk. I was not polished like them. I didn’t have long, pretty hair like them. I wasn’t successful like them, I told myself.
I took those statements and repeated them over and over, magnifying the “them vs. me” until the panic rose in my throat and I stood frozen in line. Meanwhile, in my head I was sprinting to the exits, aching for a breath of fresh air and some hairspray to tame my stupid, wild mane. It was awful.
And that’s how I spent the night. After the headshots, I sat and listened to a speaker, the entire time wanting to shrivel up as I graded myself against woman after woman and found myself lacking. “I’m such an amateur compared to them,” I kept saying in my mind.
All I knew was those women felt right and I felt wrong.
But here’s the thing: I wasn’t wrong; I was just in the wrong box. Those women came from corporate America. I was trying to force myself into this long-haired, corporate-princess box when I plainly didn’t fit. Square peg, meet round hole.
And that’s okay. What I forgot that night was that I actually tried corporate life once. For three, mainly agonizing, years, I was a copywriter for a big (soul-sucking) corporation. I hated it. I hated writing jargon-drenched departmental missives, pretending I didn’t loathe my boss and the thought of having a boss at all. And the clothes! Being stuck in uncomfortable suits and shoes for eight plus hours. No.
That wasn’t me. And I wasn’t those women at the networking event either. For better or worse, I am the woman who does read books all day with the dog sleeping underneath her desk. I am me.
And you are you.
What box are you trying to fit in? Think about your writing. Are you trying to write like a certain author because they have critical acclaim and envious sales figures when that’s not how you deep down really like to write? Are you trying to push yourself into a specific genre or subgenre just because it’s popular?
Are you writing a historical romance when you have the awesome outline of a futuristic astronaut love story on your desktop?
Are you pushing yourself to write literary fiction when all you really read and all you really want to write, deep down, are cozy mysteries?
Or vice versa?
What about when it comes to publishing? Do you cry with every rejection letter you receive, but you are determined to make your outside-the-box novel fit into the in-the-box traditional publishing because you think only people who fail self-publish?(This is a very incorrect assumption, and I would be happy to tell you why this is wrong and why self-publishing is often the best option for you. Contact me here.)
In the end, we only have one life. And we are only truly guaranteed this present moment. So why not make your life, this moment, exactly as you want it and stop trying to be someone, or some writer, you’re not.
Write in the style you want to write. Write that sci-fi astronaut romance and toss out your bodice-ripper draft. Stop boxing yourself into the traditional-publishing mold and embrace the freedom, income opportunities, and creative control that comes with self-publishing.
Listen to Judy Garland when she said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself and not a second-rate version of someone else.”
Go forth and write your dang heart out. Write what you want to write. And when you’re ready for an editor, I’ll be here for you.
If you are looking for a positive-minded and collaborative book editor who will always be your number-one cheerleader, talk to me: Erin@dotanddashllc.com.