Right now, among the fiction I'm reading (ENDER'S GAME, which I love, plus a Baby-sitters Club prequel called THE SUMMER BEFORE), I'm also reading a great nonfiction book by Teri Hatcher (of Desperate Housewives fame) called BURNT TOAST. The title comes from how her mother always ate burnt toast instead of throwing it away, and it offers a metaphor for how so many women settle for leftovers.
I eat "burnt toast" all the time, and have for most of my life. But I'm learning that not only does it hold me back, it gives me a paralyzing fear of failing. I anticipate failure, sometimes before I even begin.
As writers, we know this all too well. Especially when rejections come in. But later on in Hatcher's book, a surprising revelation: failure is a good thing. Probably the best of things. Because it leads us toward greatness.
Recently, Billy Crystal was interviewed on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He told a beautiful story that illustrates the importance of not being afraid to bomb.
I love what Jon Stewart says. "Enjoy the silence." (I guess Depeche Mode was onto something.) Because here's the secret. Sometimes, when I think I've bombed, it's all in my head--an interpretation of what I think happened, based solely on my past experiences.
So the next time you "bomb," ask yourself if the consequences are really as bad as you think they are. Some of the rejections I've gotten have given me the best feedback. They offer stepping stones toward where I want to be.
Don't let burnt toast charr your path. Acknowledge its presence and don't let it intimidate you. As Hatcher says, "It's about weathering the small challenges that we encounter every day." See it as a way to somewhere else rather than a measurement of your perceived limitations.