Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Dream Deferred, Not Derailed

Pitch Wars results are out and while 150 new mentees and alternates are celebrating this morning, over a thousand potentials are smiling bravely and pretending the results don't sting. We are told to act professionally and I completely agree with that. No tantrums or whining or sour grapes on the twitter feed or in blog posts. But our positivity culture has its drawbacks too. Grief is natural and necessary and I wanted to take a moment to say it's okay to be disappointed. It's okay to be upset and sad. It's how you handle those feelings that matters.

Bear with me while I go on a wee tangent. Ten years ago my daughter was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, a life-threatening, degenerative genetic disease that has no cure. It is a terminal illness, even with all our advances in medicine. I did not handle the news well. I cried, I screamed, I cuddled my baby tight and wondered how I'd ever get through the days ahead of us. And then I did what most parents facing something that awful do - I went online and began reading everything I could. And I stumbled across the best advice I've ever received in my life - it's okay to mourn. I wasn't mourning my daughter - I was mourning the dream of a normal life that died the day she was diagnosed with CF. Not only was mourning okay, it was necessary. I needed to acknowledge that my hopes for my daughter's future were real and important, that that life I'd imagined for us had value and substance. By giving myself permission to mourn that life I also gave myself permission to focus on a new one. That's the key - mourn what's lost, but then get up and find the good and hold onto that for all you're worth and build a new dream.

Flash forward to today. I am in no way saying that not being chosen in a contest is like finding out your kid has a terminal illness. What I am saying is the lessons I learned dealing emotionally with my daughter's diagnosis apply now as well. In our lives we have all sorts of dreams - some big and some small. I imagine for each writer reading this, finding an agent and getting published is a BIG dream. And so many of us had our hopes pinned on Pitch Wars and now those hopes are dashed. It's okay to mourn that dream. Of course, do so in the privacy of your own home (not on social media, not in any way that you will be embarrassed about later). Take a day off to eat a pint of ice cream, watch a chick flick, hang out with a friend, take a long bike ride, watch a sunset - whatever your comfort mechanism entails.

Then get back up and acknowledge that yes, you're disappointed, but this is a dream deferred, not derailed. Publishing is a long hard road, filled with disappointments, lots of waiting and a crap ton of hard work. We're in it for the long haul and there's no easy path. Last night I let myself have a bit of a cry, played with our pet hedgehog (best coping mechanism EVER to fight off the gloomies) and then I researched 5 new agents to add to my query list and worked on my Twitter pitches for PitMad. Doing something productive, taking a different path toward reaching my goal was just what I needed. The path to becoming published is different for every author, my path just jigged onto a different track. I've got this and so do you.

So let yourself mourn the Pitch Wars dream if you didn't get in. Then do something positive for yourself.

No matter what - you've gained a lot just by entering Pitch Wars. Go look at all your new writer friends on your social feeds, go check out that query and that first chapter that are SO much stronger now than when you started, and send a virtual hug to any critique partners you've picked up along the way. Winning is a matter of perspective -- in many, many ways we all won.


  1. As a fellow PW reject AND also a CF patient, this is lovely. And I hope your daughter is doing well!

    1. Thanks Cindy! It's always a bit scary sharing personal stuff, isn't it? My daughter is doing well. We've had some set backs but we keep trucking on. She's pre-diabetic and had to start Actigal for liver disease this year. That was a blow. BUT her FEVs are consistently in the 90s overall and she's managed to stay out of the hospital for over a year. I count those as wins. It's funny how CF is different for everyone. I think Cass is on the mild end lung wise, thus far. We hope and pray for a cure every day! One day soon.

      Good luck with your writing! Wishing you an agent and a publishing house soon!

    2. Yes, CF really is a wild ride! I'll pray that things hold out well for her. I've actually been prediabetic for years and never passed the line, even during my pregnancy, so you never know! And good luck to you as well in your agent search.