Thought for the day: Going after what you truly want is hard

Going after what you really, truly want – deep down in your heart of hearts want – is hard.

It is so much easier to go after something you don’t really want that much. That career that’s not your dream career but “hey, it pays the bills”. That small property in a not-ideal area that you tell yourself will do as a “starter home” or “just to get on the first rung of the housing ladder”. That business in an industry that isn’t quite what you’d want to work in, but “at least it’s safe”. That job you only take because your CV proves your experience for the role. That man or woman you’re not really that fussed about. If they do say yes, if they do agree to take you on, then hey, at least “they’ll do”.

(Spoof boy-band singing “Girl, You’ll Do” from Charlie Brooker’s BBC show, How TV Ruined Your Life. Do watch the clip – it’s HILARIOUS.)

Because – terror of terrors! – what if you tried to get into your dream job or career, and they said no???? What if you did try to save up for a better house, or move to a better area, and you couldn’t do it??? What if you tried to start that business in the industry you really wanted to work in, and you failed??? What if you asked out that man or woman you really like, and they laughed in your face???

So, you think, better to go for something (or someone) you’re not so fussed about, so that if it doesn’t work out, then hey, you’re not that bothered really. And if it does, then hey, “it’ll do”. Much easier to go after something if you’re not so invested in the outcome, isn’t it? Much easier to take action if you’re not scared that you’ll get rejected, or that you’re not good enough, or that you’ll try so so hard and still not get where you wanted to be… isn’t it?

Until the weeks, months, years, even decades go by… where you’re drifting through life on autopilot yet you can’t shake off that niggling dissatisfaction you have. “If only I was doing this.” “If only I had that.” “If only I had married someone else (or didn’t get married at all).” “I wish I could do what they’re doing.” “I wish I had what they’ve got.”

But if you want something, truly want something, it is hard. You will fear being rejected for that thing worse than fearing rejection for anything else. You will be scared. You will be terrified.

And even worse, if you do get rejected, you will probably go into a tailspin: you will probably fear trying ever again for that thing you want. You will back off and play it safe. You will never try again. This is the worst thing you can do.

Anything that was ever worth doing is hard. Today I realised this: it’s supposed to be hard. If it was easy, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing.

I had that realisation today, while trying to write an article to pitch to a magazine I’ve wanted to break into for years. It took me about two years to summon up the courage to pitch an article to them, and that was 18 months ago. They replied saying it wouldn’t be suitable, and I was so disheartened by that rejection that I never tried again.

But did that mean I accepted it, and happily carried on with the rest of my life? Did it hell. I was happy with a lot of the work I was getting paid to do – and I still am happy with lot of it, to be fair – but deep down inside, I still really really really wanted to be published in that magazine. I’d read every new issue (it’s published every few months), and think “If only I could get published in this magazine.” I’d read the other articles in there, note the names of the authors, and think “They’re so lucky.” Now I know many of you would say I was silly to let that one rejection get to me as badly as it did; many of you will ask why I simply didn’t try again by pitching a different article idea to the editor, and guess what? You’d be absolutely right.

So today, I decided to put that right. I read the last four issues (well, I read the 800-word slot in each issue that I particularly want to write for, rather than the entire magazine) to get an idea of the sort of writing style they’re looking for, and the sort of subject they like for the magazine slot I want to contribute to. And then I sat down to try and write it – yes, I know it’s a Saturday, but I thought it wouldn’t take me that long to do; it’s only 800 words, after all.

I’ve been struggling with it all bloody day. Seriously. It’s a style of writing I’m not used to doing, so that is proving a challenge in itself – but probably what’s holding me back so much is that I’m scared they’ll reject me again. Writing this piece is proving to be really, really, REALLY hard. It’s about 10:30 at night and I’m still struggling with what to write, how much I want to say, and whether I’m getting the tone and style exactly right. And that’s when I realised:

Going after what you really, truly want IS hard.

Anything that’s worthwhile doing IS hard. And, therefore, for me, writing this piece was always going to BE hard. And pitching it to the editor of the magazine, especially as a brand-new contributor, once I’ve finished writing it, is going to be hard as well. But I want this time to be different. Sod rejection. Sod being all wistful that I’ll “never” get published in my dream publication. And if I get rejected again, this time it will be different: I will not wait another 18 months (or two years) to pluck up the goddamned courage to try again – I’ve wasted enough time yearning to be published in this magazine, and it’s time to turn that longing and wishing into concrete action. I will keep trying, and keep remembering that rejection is something that all freelance writers face – something we ALL face. It doesn’t mean one should give up at the first hurdle/rejection, and I regret that I did.

Everybody fears rejection. But if you want something, truly want something, heart-body-and-soul want something, you have to go after that thing, and get over your fear of rejection. (Unless it’s a romantic or sexual interest that’s already turned you down once before. In which case, disregard that advice – stalking someone is NOT the way to go :-)) The old cliché is true: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

And now, I must go back to writing my article :-) Thanks for reading.

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