Embracing Rejection

A huge piece of any endeavor is finding a way to deal with rejection. Whether you’re trying to find a new job, trying to expand your business, or trying to make sales, get booked, or shop a manuscript, hearing the word “No” is a big part of your life.

Rejection is hard. It’s hard to hear someone tell you that you’re not what they’re looking for and not take it personally. Sometimes it’s downright impossible to get the “thanks, but no thanks” response without spiraling into the self-defeating vortex of “I’m not talented enough, smart enough, pretty enough, good enough.” If you’re a creative soul, you may be very familiar with this world, in fact, you may have made yourself a cozy little life there, with cushions and comforters and cocoa, so you can rest easy in the knowledge that you KNOW you’ll never get anywhere.

I used to do that.

And then I hit a point where I was tired of hearing myself complain about how I wasn’t doing what I wanted: I was newly graduated from college, working retail, and sure that my life was never going to get anywhere. So I applied for a teaching job. I knew I had no chance of getting it – especially when I found out one of the other applicants was a former classmate of mine – but I applied anyway, and went for the interview, presenting myself as only myself. Since I already didn’t have the job, I figured I had nothing to lose.

While I would love for that to be the final turning point in my refusal to be scared of rejection, it certainly isn’t. I’ve struggled with fear of inadequacy, rejection, and ridicule in all areas of my life; secure only in a belief that it’s safer to avoid making waves than it is to make a splash.  I still have a hard time putting myself, my words, and my work out into the world. But every time I find myself hesitating, I remember what I told my Relay For Life volunteers: In order to get to the YES, first you have to dig through the NO.

I turned our collective fear of rejection into a game, for every twenty-five “No” responses that they got (asking for donations, etc.) they were entered into a prize drawing. For every one hundred rejections, they were entered into a drawing for an even bigger prize.

100 No'sTo date, it’s one of my favorite ideas; the only thing I didn’t like about the original, was how it’s designed for just one thing. To that end, I made an even better version:

Embrace Rejection

Enter a caption

Set your goals: will you get something for each NO? For each five? Will you play it like a bingo game? Will you challenge a friend or colleague?

A PDF version is available here for your use.

So, how will you Embrace Rejection?

Mariel

Mariel stared out her window, playing with a strand of hair and trying to convince herself that she was excited. While she knew that her father was expecting her to be the perfect little hostess for the dinner party, Mariel just could not bring herself to look forward to it. The gentlemen who would be at tonight’s meal were just that, gentlemen. They were the crème de la crème, all highly intelligent and respected men, but…

Mariel sighed. None of them was interesting, at least not when she was around. They only words any of them spoke to her were the same boring pleasantries which one found in abundance at social gatherings; they never said anything of import. Rising from the window seat, Mariel went to her dressing table to secure the rogue hairs which had escaped her bun and straighten her gown. Fixing a smile on her face, she slipped her shoes on and headed downstairs.


The next day found Mariel in the furthest part of the back garden viciously pulling at weeds, muttering under her breath. When she had left the house after breakfast, it had been with every intent of pruning the roses and perhaps bringing some inside to liven up her room. She had started the trek out to the garden willing herself to forget all the dismal details of the previous evening’s dinner party: how every time she’d come upon a conversation that was the slightest bit interesting the men had stopped talking, how the women refused to speak of anything other than who was wearing what and which men were worth marrying, how Mr. Brighton had been sitting so close to her at dinner that she could barely eat for fear of hitting him with her elbow.

Feeling the need to scream, Mariel threw a weed as far as she could. The fact that it didn’t go very far simply because it was a weed did absolutely nothing for her composure. As she sat looking savagely at the roses, deciding that it was definitely lucky for them that she had left the shears inside, a shadow fell over the ground. Mariel turned and squinted into the sun to see who had come to disturb.

“Yes Rachel, do you need something?” 

“Yes’m, Mr. Blackwell bids you come in,” the servant answered. “He says it is important.”

“Rachel, I saw my father not half an hour ago at breakfast, what could he possibly have to tell me?”

“I don’t know ma’am. But he said you were to come to the front room.”

Puzzled, Mariel stood and brushed off her skirt, it was a tad dirty from kneeling in the garden, but she was sure her father wouldn’t mind. While he didn’t approve of her doing the servants chores, he had never felt that a bit of work hurt anyone. “Very well Rachel, I’ll go see him. Oh, would you mind cutting a few roses for my room; I think the color will be needed later.”

A moment later, Mariel stopped short at the door to the front room. There, sitting in the chair she had always considered her own, was none other than Mr. Brighton. Mariel immediately wished that she’d taken a moment or two to freshen up, while her father might not care about her appearance when it was just the two of them, he did care what others might think. She hastily smoothed what she could of her hair while she waited for the two men to notice her.

“Ah, Mariel,” said her father. “We were just speaking of you. You do remember Mr. Brighton from the dinner last night. James, my…somewhat rumpled daughter.”

“How do you do, Mr. Brighton, it is indeed an honor to see you again.”  Mariel did her best to sound sincere. “Please pardon my appearance, I was attending to the garden.”

“Of course, Miss Blackwell,” Mr. Brighton replied. “Your father was just telling me how well you attend to your flowers. It speaks volumes.”

Mariel nodded her head in what she hoped was a gracious manner and was about to excuse herself to clean up when her father addressed her. 

“Mariel, do sit down and join us. There is a matter we would like to discuss with you.” As she settled on her second favorite chair, Mariel’s father continued. “Mariel, Mr. Brighton has come here today to ask for your hand, and I was delighted to tell him that nothing would please you more.”

Mariel quickly looked up from her lap, praying to some god that she had misheard, or that this was her father’s idea of a joke. But she was not so fortunate; her father beamed as he looked first at her and then at Mr. Brighton, who stared at her as if appraising his newest foaling mare.

Oh heavens, Mariel thought, I’m his newest mare…ugh! 

“Mariel, don’t you have something you’d like to say to Mr. Brighton?” 

“Yes, Father, of course. Mr. Brighton, it is truly an honor to be asked for my hand in marriage; I hope I will please you well.” Mr. Brighton beamed, which Mariel decided to take as a sign that she hadn’t responded too mechanically. “Father, Mr. Brighton, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to freshen up. Mr. Brighton, I do hope that you’ll be able to join us for dinner this evening.” Mariel stood, nodded to her father, and left the room.

Her composure held until she reached her room. Mariel closed the door as quietly as possible, threw herself onto her bed, and screamed into her pillow. Feeling a bit better, she stalked around the room, throwing her soiled clothes on the floor and attempting to squeeze herself back into the mold that was her life.


The rain pounded heavily on the roof, echoing the beating of Mariel’s heart as she crept around the attic. As silently as possible, she inched her way to the window in the far corner. Having placed her lantern on a nearby box, she settled into the one comfortable chair hidden away in the attic. Her heart raced faster as she reached for the old trunk in front of her. As her fingers traced lovingly over the letters carved into the top, Mariel thought about the events of the past week.

While Mr. Brighton had stayed for dinner the evening he had proposed to her (come to think of it he hadn’t actually proposed to her…) he had not been around much since then. Apparently, he was “doing business.” What exactly that meant she had no idea. When she had asked her father, he said that she shouldn’t worry about it, that it was no concern of theirs.

Indeed since the proposal and acceptance, Mr. Brighton had barely said two words to her. Mariel was thankful for the reprieve from his inane conversation, but she couldn’t help feeling that this marriage was a farce. She knew about arranged marriages and marriages of convenience, but was there absolutely no mutual respect? Was it really possible for two people to live together with nothing in common at all? Were all marriages like that, were all men?

Time and again over the past week, Mariel had found herself staring off into space asking those questions. She didn’t want to believe that there was no hope for the future, but that seemed to be the conclusion at which she continued to arrive. She had wondered a few times if there were any place in the world where the future was not so decided by others. Was that only possible if one were a man? Mariel looked down at the trunk in front of her and willed herself not to think about the impending future.


    My darling little girl,
I am so glad that you have come to us at last. For a time there I thought that you would never arrive. As soon as I knew to expect you I knew that you were a little girl. I am sure that you will carry on the tradition of the women in this family. There is so much that I cannot wait to share with you. My cup truly does run over now that you are here in my life.
With all of my love,
Mamma

      My precious daughter,
You have brought such joy to my life in the past year, and now you are to have a brother. Your father will be so proud to have his little boy, just as I am proud to have my little girl. I know that you will love your brother just as much as I love you. He is to be named Thomas William, but he will always be my Sweet William just as you are my Marigold. I still cannot wait for the day when I can share with you all of the stories of our family. Someday, you and I will go sit in the garden, your favorite spot, and I will share all with you. How I await that day!
All my love, forever,
Mamma


Mariel refolded the letters, placed them on the floor next to her, and turned her attention to the contents of the trunk. A woolen traveling cloak sat on top; it had been so well made that, aside from the slight fading of the black to a dark gray, it showed no signs of wear. Mariel lifted it slowly, almost reverently, from the trunk, knowing that underneath its protective folds lay the only memories of her mother. 

There was a long heavy ebony jewelry box, empty save for the lingering scent of her mother’s perfume which still clung to the rich velvet lining, and a small silver key which shone in the light of the lantern as if it had just been polished.

Next to the jewelry box was a small frame which held a portrait of her mother and father on their wedding day. Mariel’s eyes misted over as she looked at her parents gazing into each other’s eyes with such love. Mariel laid the frame aside as she looked through the rest of the odds and ends in the trunk. None of them meant anything to her, but she was sure that they had been important to her mother. Underneath a book about herbs and fungi, she found what she had been looking for.

Gently she picked up her mother’s wedding gown and placed it, still folded, on her lap. She only knew what it looked like from her parent’s portrait. Mariel had never unfolded it for the same reason that she had never removed any of her mother’s belongings from the attic: she wasn’t supposed to know about this trunk. Her father must have packed everything away and stowed it in the attic shortly after her mother had died, and Mariel had only discovered it by accident a few years ago. She had no idea what her father would say when he saw her in the dress at the wedding, and she hated to think about what it meant that she had defied her father in any way, but she hoped that he would eventually understand and forgive her.

Resolved, Mariel stood and shook the dress loose from its folds. Hearing a dull thud, Mariel froze, her heart lodged in her throat. She turned around fully expecting to be caught, but no one was there. Then something caught her eye. There on the floor was a small black leather book with a silver lock that shone in the flickering light of the lantern.


A week passed before Mariel touched the diary again. She had been sitting at her vanity, arranging her hair for the evening’s festivities when she’d suddenly caught sight of her own reflection in the glass. In that unguarded moment, her eyes had seemed so sad, as if there were no hope for the future. Her attempted smile had barely touched the corners of her lips and disappeared almost as soon as it had emerged. Unable to bear the melancholy any longer, Mariel had buried her face in her hands, wishing that someone existed in whom she could confide. She had thought about speaking to Rachel for the past week, but couldn’t; even though Rachel had never betrayed a confidence, Mariel knew that Rachel’s loyalties lay with her mother, whose allegiance was to Mariel’s father.

Raising her face, Mariel had once again looked into her own eyes, almost the same color as the emerald pendant which hung from a chain around her neck. She remembered the day her father had given her the pendant, “To match your eyes,” he’d said the day she had turned ten.

She had looked at the sparkling jewel, nearly unable to believe that her eyes were that beautiful, an asked, “Papa, why are my eyes so green?”

He had frozen in place, about to fasten the necklace on her, and said, “They are to remind us of your mother.” He never spoke of her mother again, but Mariel had asked the cook who confirmed that Mariel indeed had the same color eyes as her mother.

It was this remembrance that brought Mariel back to the diary. She got up from the chair and drew the book out of the bottom drawer of her dresser and moved her hand over the smooth black leather binding. She could almost feel her mother’s presence in the room as she held it to her breast. She went to her window seat and dug the key out from a small hole in the cushion. Sitting down, she fitted the key into the lock, turned it and opened the book.


Mariel’s reading was interrupted by a knock on her door. Glancing at the garden sundial she could see from her window, she was disheartened to see that it was nearly time for the guests to be arriving. The knock was louder this time, and it was accompanied by Rachel’s voice, “Miss Mariel,” she called. “Your father asks that you come downstairs to greet the guests.”

“Thank you, Rachel. Please tell him I’ll be right down.” Mariel rose slowly from the window seat, not quite ready to leave the words – and thus the world – which had once belonged to her mother. She hadn’t learned much from the first few entries in the journal, but it was enough to make her want to forget about propriety and stay there reading for the rest of the night. Pushing aside even the possibility of thinking about that idea, Mariel gave herself one last glance in the mirror, deemed herself presentable and handsome – if not stunning and beautiful – and went to welcome the guests with her father.

A version of this piece was previously posted on “Maggie Writes Stuff.”

Facebook for Businesses

A huge topic that comes up when developing an online presence is how to handle Facebook. There are so many options: Pages, Events, Groups… how do you know what’s right for your endeavor? The easiest way to answer this question is by answering another: What is your goal?

Do you want to connect with current and future clients?
Do you want to host a physical or virtual event?
Do you want to create a community?

Don’t worry, you can answer “yes” to all three of these questions, but each of them requires a different approach to the Facebook game.

If you’re a business, create a Facebook Page. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s professional, and it’s likely the first way clients and customers will find you. In the last few months, I’ve been working hard for a client, finding information about businesses where he might be able to showcase his work. After doing broad Google searches, I’ve compiled lists and gone searching for contact information. So many of these businesses don’t have a website, and many of those don’t even have a Facebook page. So I’m left with hoping that the contact information listed on a non-affiliated website is correct. Often it isn’t.

If you’re hosting a meeting, party, celebration, or rendezvous of any kind, create a Facebook Event. This is an incredibly useful tool, especially in the day & age of the smartphone. If your clients have the synced their Facebook app with their phone’s calendar, then the event automatically gets added to their calendar when they respond to the event. Events can also be a useful tool for keeping track of your business. I have clients who use Facebook events to help keep track of mileage for tax purposes. Also, Events allow you to add friends and other businesses as hosts, which allows for cross promotions.

Last, the Facebook Group. According to Facebook: “Groups make it easy to connect with specific sets of people.” Groups are awesome for shared committee work, communicating with all the members of a wedding party, band, or business, and connecting with those who share interests. Groups have a few drawbacks: the default setting on a Group is for all members to receive all notifications and not all Facebook apps/mobile sites make it possible to change the settings or leave the Group. If you create a group, be careful that you’re only adding people you’re sure will be interested in the topic.

Today’s Takeaway: Pages, Events, and Groups are all amazing ways to promote your business and engage with your audience on Facebook; just make sure you’re using them appropriately, it can make a world of difference.

Just Write

Don’t bother with platitudes, explanations, or background.
Just write out your thoughts, feelings, and fears.

Don’t worry about comparisons or what other people might say.
Just write what you need to: get the story out.

Don’t worry about fiction versus truth.
Just write the words spinning in your head.

Don’t think about the “what ifs” that come after you’re done.
Just focus on the “what ifs” that can make your story soar.

Don’t stress about the readers; they aren’t your why.
Just be true to what is bursting to be created.

Just write; the fear will fade.
Just write; the rest will work out.
Just write; that’s all you need to heal.
Just write; the words are all that matters.

Just write.

A version of this piece was previously posted on “Maggie Writes Stuff.”

Crossing Bridges: An Outreach Community

A few years ago, at brunch with friends, my husband and I raised the question, “If you could throw a bunch of money at a problem, what would you fix?”

Answers varied: cancer, education, healthcare… and conversation flowed around the topics, what would we change, how would we do it, what challenges would we face… then one idea took hold of the whole table.

Homelessness. We would fix, cure, and solve homelessness.

After parting ways with our friends, James and I couldn’t stop talking about the concept of eradicating homelessness. Was it even possible? How could we do it?

The easy first answer is to give everyone a home.

Since we first started talking about this, I’ve read numerous articles and studies showing that, in fact, providing a place for the homeless to stay is, in fact, the best way to solve a very expensive problem.

But we want to do more than just provide people with a place to stay.

We want to provide people with a community, a place they can safely leave their belongings, a place they can feel safe sleeping: a place they can actually call home.

We envision a large piece of land, with dorms, cabins, and a central community center (basically college meets summer camp). Families would be able to stay together, people would have an address to list so they could get a license, apply for jobs, register for classes. They’d have regular access to showers, women wouldn’t have to worry about getting pads and tampons every month.

Everyone would have access to job training if they wanted it, daycare and transportation to school and work would be provided.

Basically three rules: nothing illegal, no violence, and help out when you can.

Most people who are homeless just need a hand, a safe place to be while they get their footing back. The end goal for each person is that they find their way back home.

I was thinking about this one day while watching my son play with a train set, that this could be a bridge back for so many people, and I was put in mind of a song my husband wrote, and so “Crossing Bridges” was born.

We’re still in the planning stages, there’s a lot to take into consideration with getting something like this up and running, but it is definitely a huge dream of mine to make this happen.

Defining Passion

Elizabeth Gilbert is one of my favorite writers, and a huge source of inspiration to me a writer (and human being).

In anticipation of launching The Signature of All Things, Liz (who I’m sure will forgive the familiarity), has been holding a giveaway. Each month, she poses a question to her dear readers and picks the answer she likes the best.

September’s question “What is your defining passion?” As this has been long been a question I’ve tried to answer, I felt compelled to share my answer here.

“The idea of a passion of one’s life has haunted me for years. I got my bachelors degree because I knew I should and because I do like to learn. But now some eight years removed from graduation, I’m beginning to see that the “passion” I had for my studies wasn’t that intense, and it certainly hasn’t lasted.

“This may be due in part to the fact that English/Latin majors have limited career options if they’re going to live in New Hampshire and be the major breadwinner for their family, or maybe because while I love reading and writing (and dissecting grammar) I prefer to do it on my own time.

“So what now? I’m passionate about my husband and our son, and about keeping them healthy, happy, and safe. I’m very mama bear when it comes to my little family, and I’m overjoyed that my husband gets to pursue his passion for music. I love that we’re striving to teach our son (who just threw a diaper at me) that chasing after your dreams is both important and possible, but where is my passion?

“Liz, I can’t tell you how I’ve struggled with this idea since I was trying to apply to colleges in 1998: I can write, paint, take pictures, sing, make cool cakes. care incredibly for others, beg for money for fundraisers, and sell the crap out of raffle tickets.

“I make the phone calls no one else wants to, and I deal with the upset and frustrating customers when no one else wants to; although those last two are due more to my belief that “the buck stops here” than anything else.  

“I care about women’s rights, gay rights, the environment, and so much more.

“Am I a Jane-of-All Passions? Can that be a thing? I’m 32 years old and still haven’t found the thing that’s just for me, the thing that I won’t just be pretty good at, but the thing that I’ll be amazing at and love so deeply that I can’t not do it.

“I know I haven’t really answered your question, so let’s go with the thing I’m most passionate about right now is diving into another one of your books. Your writings have touched my heart & my mind. and I thank you for being a huge inspiration to me, by just being you!”

A version of this essay was previously posted on the blog “On Life and Other Adventures.”

On an Adventure

When my husband and I started dating, we promised each other that we would always pursue our dreams and passions. We didn’t want to become that stereotypical couple whose lives revolve solely around their children or dead-end jobs that exist only to pay the bills.

We’ve done a fairly good job at this. As a working musician, my husband also gets to be a stay-at-home-dad, which means that he gets to chase his dreams and set an amazing example for our son.

I’m still trying to make my professional life match up with my dreams of helping the world, but I do find time to volunteer for charities like Relay for Life and Reverb.

But most importantly we find ways to have our adventures. Sometimes it’s a random day trip as a family when we follow the road to see where it takes us, sometimes it’s a live music or theater event, and sometimes it’s exploring our neighborhood.

No matter the adventure, I love making these special memories with my little family.

A version of this essay was previously posted on the blog “On Life and Other Adventures.”

A Voter’s Journey: 2012

I did not vote in the 2008 election.  I tried, but I’d been out of state all day and it took far longer than planned to get home. By the time I got to my polling place, they’d closed.  

I missed it by 10 minutes.  At that time I was sort of relieved. Even on my way to the polls, I hadn’t made up my mind.  I didn’t like McCain, and I really, really didn’t want Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency, but I wasn’t sure that Obama was the way to go, he hadn’t convinced me.

Looking back on it now, the only reason I can come up with for my vague ambivalence was the product of the previous two elections. I’d been a firm believer that W was the wrong choice both times, and I hadn’t really cared who besides him sat in the Oval Office. “Anyone’s better than Bush” became the only rallying cry I really heard, and at that time I didn’t understand how important and relevant elections were.

And now, in less than 24 hours, polls begin to open across the country, and I am proud to say that I know who I will be voting for; and I am pleased to say that I am voting FOR a candidate rather than against one.  

 I have seen the passion President Obama has for our country and our citizens.  I have seen some wonderful legislation passed that has started to take us in the right direction again.  I have seen the faith that he has in our business people.  And I have seen him finally end a war that we never should have been in.  Has he been perfect? No.  But it is impossible to have any person, especially a president, be perfect.

For those of you who might be undecided, and those of you who will not be voting for our President, please consider your choice.

You can choose a man who believes that all Americans deserve an equal opportunity to become great or a man who thinks you should be stuck in the life you’re born into.

You can choose a man who loves Americans and will strive to make government work for them, or a man who cares only about the top 1% and would privatize as many government programs as possible, including FEMA.

You can choose a man who believes that we all have the right to decide with our families and our doctors what medical care is right for us, or a man who has refused to take a stand against those in his party who have “misspoken” about women’s health issues.

You can choose a man who has an open mind and believes that it is not his job to keep rights from a minority, or a man who would instill his spiritual beliefs as law on people who are not of his faith.

To me, the choice is clear.  Please get out and vote tomorrow.  Let your voice be heard, and please remember, our children deserve to grow up in a world where they are free to make their own choices about their own bodies and lives.

A version of this essay was previously posted on the blog “On Life and Other Adventures.”