This is me, being mature: after realizing that my story would not be included in 100 Stories for Queensland, I punched out Suck, Suck, Suck on my laptop, blew off some steam on Facebook, then laid on the bed and cried for half an hour.
One of the reasons I was so upset was that I am constantly looking for affirmation that I am terrible at what I do and, when I find it, it doesn't matter how many people had nice things to say, it's the rejections I believe.
Yeah, I know. Twisted.
More than that, though, is the fear I'm gonna wind up like one of the worst auditions on American Idol. The ones we all laugh at. The ones where the guy has been told his whole life that he's a great singer. His friends, his family, his overpaid music teacher – "they all told me I could sing! What do YOU guys know," he throws tearfully at Randy Jackson as he stomps out the door.
And I'm watching him, thinking, really? No one told you can't sing your way out of a wet paper bag? No one told you your voice is flatter than all that ironing Tomara Armstrong does? (Heartfelt congratulations, Tomara, on getting your story included in 100 Stories... it was a rocking good tale and well deserved! Congratulations to all my other friends who made the cut! Way to go, guys!)
Every time I see a guy like that, bawling his fool eyes out for being rightfully rejected from the Idol audition process, I ask myself, "how could he possibly not know he sucks?"
Being a writer is a lot like being a contestant on American Idol.
Your friends and family tell you you're the best writer since, I dunno, Stephen King. Or sliced bread. Or even the cat's pajamas. They're your friends and family... of course they're going to say nice things. If they don't, you should consider getting new friends and family.
And then there's your writerly friends, who also say nice things because their egos are almost certainly just as fragile as your own and most are nice folks who say nice things because, well, they're nice. They certainly don't want to be the ones to crush your dreams by saying, "You suck! Stop writing!"
Besides, if they support poor writers, their own good writing will look great in comparison. (!)
The only time you get real, unbiased feedback on your writing is when you send it out, hoping for publication.
Then, finally, your work is being judged on its own merits.
I know, I know... sometimes it's not your work's fault that it was rejected. Maybe it wasn't what the publisher was looking for. Maybe it was too long or too short or too funny or too serious or had too many clowns. Maybe the judge/publisher was PMSing and hated any story being written by people with a name starting in C. Maybe the publisher had published enough good stories that month and was now publishing bad ones and yours was therefore too good to be included.
Your brain can come up with a lot of reasons why your work wasn't chosen.
Usually none of those reasons is because the story wasn't good enough.
That is a very hard reason to accept.
But what if it is true?
What if you're that guy on American Idol who just plain shouldn't be singing? Shouldn't you accept the fact that Simon says you're a talentless bum? Or do you want to embarrass yourself further and audition again next year?
So this is what I pondered today: which Idol contestant am I?
Am I the person who can't sing but thinks I can and am roundly disappointed and cry when Idol judges tell me to keep my day job?
Am I the person who can't sing and knows it, but dresses up in a funny costume and tries out anyhow because, hey, it's national TV?
Or am I the real deal, a genuine talent, who just hasn't caught a break?
I've been pondering. Still haven't made up my mind.
In the meantime, I'm curious: which Idol are you?