Choosing Yourself

In her wonderful book, The 7 Secrets of the Prolific : The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Procrastination, Perfectionism and Writer’s Block, Hillary Rettig notes the way many writers equate publication with legitimacy. She considers two articles, written by Seth Godin and Jennifer Crusie, both of which are discussed here.

In “Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked: Pick Yourself,” Seth Godin suggests that “it’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked.” This makes sense given that even in the earliest years of school we are waiting to be picked for the sports team, listening to the teachers tell us and our parents exactly how we are progressing in our education, and generally being told by older, ‘wiser’ people around us how we are comparing to their expectations. We prepare for the world according to the rules bestowed upon us: get a good education, find a good job, and be a good contributor to society. We read the books and listen to the ‘experts’ tell us what kinds of hoops we need to jump through to ‘fit in’ just enough to stand out and be chosen by the ‘right’ people.

So, as writers and illustrators, we do our best work and then we wait. We read and attend conferences. We work through our to-do list and we do all the ‘right’ things. And then we wait . . . to be chosen. But chosen by whom?

Jennifer Crusie, in her article, “A Writer Without a Publisher is Like a Fish Without a Bicycle : Writer’s Liberation and You,” explores the popular goal of getting published, and uses a great analogy of women in the sixties feeling incredible pressure to be married by a certain age, good match or not, in order to be deemed worthy by society. She reminds us how much we give up our power when we make it our goal to conform to the wishes of others and bestow upon them the right to choose us (or not), be it for marriage, or to get published.

Maybe it is just our own insecurity that causes us to look to someone else to reassure us that what we have created is ‘good enough’ and deem us worthy of acknowledgement; a sort of proof to us and those around us that, yes, we have been picked to be on the team so we have now moved up on the social-acceptance scale.

Intuitively we know this doesn’t make sense, and that we do have the final say. We’re not in school anymore, and we do get to choose what we do with our own power, whether we give it away to another or hold it with dignity and pick ourselves. Nevertheless, a lifetime of habitually thinking one way, despite acknowledging its unhelpfulness, is not changed in a day. But we can make it a daily decision, no matter who else does or doesn’t pick us, to stay true to our own dreams and pick ourselves.

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