When I got offered my corporate executive job in New York City, I wanted to negotiate the salary they offered me, but I was hemming and hawing. It made me really uncomfortable, but I knew I had to do it. I doubted whether they’d give it to me, but I knew I was worth it. “This was a huge company, and I’m lucky to get the offer” I told my brother one night on the phone. Then he said something I’ll never forget.
“Don’t say no for them.”
By not asking the question, I was essentially saying no for them. Well that sounded pretty stupid.
Then he asked me “What will be the worst thing that will happen if you ask.” I thought about it. Of course my brain went to “they’ll rescind the offer” but I immediately knew that wasn’t true. They wanted me for the job. They offered it to me. The worst thing that would happen was, they’d say no. Then I’d take their original offer, and we’d never talk about it again, but at least I didn’t say no for them.
It happened again when I first started my speaking business. I was applying to speak at conventions that I thought were “way out of my league” because of the big names they had on stage. I would be looking at the website, and I’d think “there’s no way they’ll accept me.” And my brother’s voice would ring in my head.
“Don’t say no for them. Worst thing happens, they say no, but they can’t say yes, if you don’t ask!”
So I’d apply, and they’d say no, but sometimes (more and more these days thank goodness) they say yes!
It happened again today. I was noodling around the internet looking for random adult learning classes that my boyfriend and I could take together. (We have a cooking class in January, and I was looking for a glassblowing class or something like that for February. Welding maybe? Steps towards our goal to build different experiences together in 2020!) I came across the schedule of adult learning classes at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. This is a world renowned arts camp, high school and performing center here in Northern Michigan. Happens to be about 30 miles from where I live. It also happens to be the place I sang opera each day during my last 3 years of high school. I know the place, I love the place, I respect the crap out of anyone associated with that place. I have also always held a few of the departments at a healthy distance. I was a musician, and with opera, we did a little theater, so the actors were relatable. I took part in some of the dance classes, and worked stage management, props and lights for some of the dance productions, so while I was nowhere near a dancer, they were also kind of relatable. My mother is a visual artist, so those artists were pretty relatable. But the writers….I never was able to understand the writers and what they did.
Writing was always something that I didn’t feel successful at. I got bad marks in school on my writing. My 8th grade English teacher still talks about how great my animal farm essay was, and how she used it as an example for other students. That’s the ONE positive ANYTHING I had on anything I wrote from anyone anywhere in my life. I cling to that accomplishment and that was 33 years ago! (My niece says I should stop doing that kind of “years ago” math…she’s probably right.)
But I had a writing class in college that I really enjoyed, and through my adulthood, I feel like I’ve been able to put together some interesting and fun stuff.
But I’m not a writer.
Fast forward to February 2015. I was attending performances by an amazing storyteller and generally inspirational person in NYC and he was offering a weekend writing workshop. I signed up, more to be around his creativity, but because I thought it would be fun, different, and a harmless adventure. The first question he asked as the 6 of us sat down was “So what are you writing.”
What did he mean what are you writing?? Tell me what to write. Give me prompts. Give me exercises. What am I writing?
Then I remembered my idea to write a book, with each chapter being the story of one of my tattoos. You see, I have 17, and each is a souvenir from something in my life. The starfish on my wrist is from the 3 morale building tours I got to go on in Iraq. The elephant on my other wrist is from the elephant sanctuary I worked at for one of my vacations. Chilly the penguin is from when I ran the Antarctica marathon, the 6 bird silhouettes on my back are from recovering from an emotionally abusive marriage, the IM logo of course from my 2 Ironman triathlons, and 12 more. I thought it would be fun so I told them that’s what I was writing.
And 3 months later, I had 16 chapters written! Very very rough drafts, but still, written, and in the 4 years since then, I have periodically picked it up and worked on it, then put it down again.
In July of 2019, I went to a seminar on writing and publishing your tip book in 90 days, and I did just that. I cranked out GET OVER IT! In 93 days, and that accomplishment has lit the fire under my tattoo book again.
So one of my 2020 goals is to get that sucker out of my computer and into YOUR hands, but I want to get it right. I want the fun stories to be told in a compelling way so people don’t say “oh dear, this is terrible to read. She’s interesting, but she sucks at writing.” I’ve toyed with paying someone else to take the skeleton I’ve created and make it compelling…but that never felt right. I need some direction, but I need to make this one happen.
So back to today, pursuing the internet and I come across DEEP REVISION RETREAT at Interlochen. WHOA! A whole week of guided writing and focused time to revise your work. DAAAAAANG! That would be amazing and could be just what I need.
But it’s Interlochen, and WRITING at Interlochen. The distant mystery afar. And it’s not like you give them your money and BAM you’re in. I had to apply, pay an application fee, submit a 10-15 page writing sample AND 2 references! (references? What the hell are they going to ask???!) and the likelihood that I would be accepted is VERY UN….unlikely that is. I’m not being down on myself. There are probably legit, trained, professional writers who have studied WAY harder than I have who will be applying.
And then I heard my brothers words.
“Don’t say no for them.”
So I threw together the application, sample from the book, references and my $15 application fee and sent it on in.
The worst they can say is no, and that impacts me….not at all! I just go on as I had planned before I ever saw this retreat.
Why are we so afraid of no?? Jia Jiang did an experiment. He realized he was so afraid of rejection that it was holding him back, so he spent 100 days seeking out rejection, and now he’s a much sought after speaker about his experience. You can see it on http://rejectiontherapy.com. Fascinating stuff that goes right along with my speaking on Embracing Discomfort. If we want to do anything of substance in this world, we have to get uncomfortable. We have to face doubt and fear and the potential for rejection and failure. Yes, it could go badly…but don’t forget. It could go well.