How I Declared Myself a ‘Rejection Expert,’ and Other Stories of Creative Reframing

I had a conversation with a friend recently where she told me that my whole “self-doubt demon” personification thing doesn’t really speak to her. She said it feels shallow, almost cutesy, and not like real coping.

It made me realize that if that’s all I was doing–personifying the voice of doubt in my head and making light of it–it probably wouldn’t work that well for me, either. There’s something deeper that has to happen.

Getting Comfortable with Failure

In my first post on Rejection Survival Guide, I wrote the following (emphasis from now):

I know what it’s like to be in the trenches. I’ve been there. I’m still there. I may be there forever. So I’m getting comfortable, setting up shop, and mapping this place out for those of you who haven’t gotten to know this place like I have.

And in my post for The Artist Unleashed, I wrote:

Along with the 100+ rejections I’d racked up from other agents, plus all the rejections for the short stories I’d been submitting to literary magazines, I started to wonder if my calling in life was to get rejected. ​Well, I reasoned, at least I’m pretty good at it.

No, seriously.

All the writers I’d heard of hadn’t been rejected nearly that much before getting published…. Getting rejected was the one area in which I could sincerely boast a great deal of experience.

These two passages reveal a shift that happened somewhere along the way in the way I viewed my failure to get published. Rejection was no longer something to run from and avoid at all costs. It was a place I could get comfortable and explore without feeling threatened. I knew that every successful writer has been there, and the fact that I had spent a lot of time there wasn’t something to be ashamed of; on the contrary, I should be proud of it. Heck, I’m so experienced at getting rejected, I’m practically an expert.

An expert at getting rejectedWhoever heard of such a thing? The idea was crazy–and so empowering. It turned this thing that had been giving me so much grief for so long completely on its head.

In psychological terms, this is called reframing: shifting perspective on a feeling, event, or thought and giving it new meaning. Sometimes, a cognitive shift is all that’s needed, and the results are immediate and powerful. Sometimes, the shift is a slower, deeper process that takes more time to unfold.

In this case, I think a lot of the groundwork was laid out by the work I’d been doing in therapy during the years before–a process of connecting with myself and becoming more confident and comfortable in my own skin. I think if I’d been told to think of my vast experience with rejection as “expertise” five years ago, I probably would have rolled my eyes and felt that whoever said that was making fun of me–and invalidating the real pain I was feeling, to boot. The change needed to come from within me.

Here are some other “reframings” I’ve done that help me cope with some of my creativity-related challenges:

Self-Doubt as Part of the Growth Process

For a long time, whenever I had a wave of self-doubt–a “writing crisis,” I called it–it scared me. It made me worry that I was losing faith in myself, that I was giving up, that I would never make it–or that it meant that I was finally facing the truth, that I really wasn’t “good enough.”

Only very recently, I began to reframe those “writing crises.” Now, when I’m thrown off by a stinging rejection or a bad review, I see the “self-doubt-demon festival” as a natural part of my processing. I almost welcome it. It means that the system is still working. If it didn’t sting, I’d be worried.

Why? Because self-doubt is part of the growth process. It keeps us humble; it makes us reassess what we’re doing and look for ways to improve. Thinking of it this way helps me avoid wallowing in it unnecessarily. That’s what I mean with my allegory of “inviting the self-doubt demons in for tea.” Self-doubt is an unpleasant, but not unwelcome guest. I let it in and hear it out, but don’t let it take charge. I think practically and follow all the concerns to their conclusions–which generally exposes how ridiculous or irrelevant they are. And when I’m done with all that, I show it the door and get back to work.

Writing letters or conducting “interviews” with a personification of self-doubt is a creative way to engage in this process, but by all means–do what works for you!

Jealousy as a Way to Connect to Your Dreams & Aspirations

This is a very recent one that I only managed to put in words in an offhand comment to my husband this past Saturday night.

You know how sometimes the world feels like it’s conspiring to make you feel a certain way? It started off with turning on my phone after the Sabbath and learning that my sister- and brother-in-law were on vacation in Barcelona–and didn’t want to tell me about it because they were worried I’d be jealous. Well, of course I’m jealous! I’ve been dreaming about traveling to Spain for years! But I’d be jealous anyway; at least let me know so I can live vicariously through you!

So I gave them the contact information for Josep (the long-suffering addressee of Letters to Josep, who lives in the area), and while I was still nursing the jealousy that they may have an opportunity to hang out with a good friend of mine who I hardly ever get to see, I scrolled down my FB feed (NEVER a good idea if you’re trying to recover from jealousy!) and saw not one, but two posts from fellow authors getting excited about their book deals.

You’d think such things would no longer spark my jealousy, seeing as my own novel is finally being published in under two months. But there’s always something. One of the authors in question has an agent and I’m certain she’s signing with a Big Fancy Publisher. The other has tons of connections in the publishing world and her only trouble is producing enough stuff for agents and editors to happily snap up. “Clearly,” my self-doubt demons said, “these authors are the Real Deal, and you, by contrast, are a Nobody.”

As I settled into bed and told my husband Eitan that the theme of the evening seemed to be Things that Make Daniella Jealous, he told me this is why I should avoid Facebook and Instagram; and I found myself saying to him that on the contrary, I think a little jealousy every once in a while is good for me. It reminds me of my dreams and aspirations and gives me a chance to re-explore them.

I don’t want to forget how much I want to visit Spain. That would suck, especially since one of these days I will get to go, and if I forget how much I want it, it won’t be nearly as satisfying, will it?!

I don’t want to forget that I always have higher places to strive for as an author–but that it is my choice whether I want to spend the effort and make the necessary sacrifices to reach them. Reminding myself of these aspirations helps me reevaluate where I am in my writing career and ask myself what I really want my next step to be–and whether those goals I longed for in the past are really relevant to what I know of myself now as a person and as a writer. Jealousy is a somewhat painful, but powerful reminder.

(For more on coping with jealousy, see: How to Not Strangle People Who Are More Successful than You)

Writer’s Block as “Slow Cooking”

There is a ton of literature devoted to coping with creative blockage–and there are many different things that may cause it. I am a passionate proponent of doing what works, and I think these methods can be extremely helpful.

I find, though, that most often, when I feel like I’m forcing something out, what that means is that it just needs more time to “brew.” Creative processes can be slow and build over many years. There are always going to be those obscenely prolific artists who effortlessly churn out amazing work on a regular basis. We can’t all be Mozart. Some of us are more Beethoven. (And between you and me, Beethoven owns Mozart’s pretentious Austrian butt. Mozart didn’t have the emotional complexity of a trombone, let alone enough to achieve the pathos of Beethoven.) (Who? Me? Jealous? Of course not. I’m merely… um… connecting to my aspiration to be prolific.)

Ahem. Where was I?

Ah yes. Slow cooking. When I find myself feeling stuck, I get up and do something else. As I’ve written before, the vast majority of my creative process takes place during meditative, mindless tasks, preferably ones that involve running water. (Like doing the dishes or taking a shower.) Sometimes I’ll put down the manuscript for a while to focus on background research. I don’t think of it as being blocked. I think of it as needing some more cooking time.


What are some other challenges creative people encounter that we might be able to frame differently? How have you used reframing to help you in your creative endeavors? Let’s discuss it in the comments!

But What If I Actually Suck?

I believe you have had the misfortune to meet my self-doubt demons. I wanted to dedicate today’s post to one of them; a tiresome little guy I like to call the What-If-I-Actually-Suck Demon.

He’s not one of my regulars, probably because I have a strong resistance to his wiles; I have been lucky enough to build up enough external validation from “high-stakes” critics (agents and editors, for example) that I have a solid pile of evidence against his case.

I’ll tell you when he does tend to show up, though. He shows up when I am unimpressed by somebody else’s work. Especially when that somebody approached me specifically and asked my opinion of said work, and I find it sloppy, or not well executed, or just plain bad.

You see, self-doubt demons are highly skilled at creating paradoxical vortexes of shame. On one side of the vortex is the fear that I’m a snob: who the hell am I to judge someone else’s work as being “not good enough”? On the other side is the fear that we’re both in the “riffraff section”–it takes one to know one, right?

Look, there’s a grain of truth here: not everyone is a “great” artist. Not every person who dabbles in a creative discipline is going to become a master at it. There is a certain measure of talent that’s required, and talent is not something you can choose or develop, it’s something you were born with. It’s all well and good for me to say, as I do in the Creative Resilience Manifesto, that “the only opinion that really matters is your own”; but what if your work does suck and you can’t see it?

On surface level, it’s a legitimate question.

But let’s look a little deeper.

Art Is Subjective

In the academic world, what they consider “high-quality” art or literature generally lives up to a certain set of “standards”. However, the thing about those “standards” is that they are subject to change. Once upon a time, if your piece didn’t resolve neatly into classical harmonies, it wasn’t music. If your poem didn’t rhyme or fit whatever meter was fashionable, it wasn’t poetry. These things aren’t objective; they change all the time.

So what does all “great” art, literature, and music have in common?

Can greatness be measured objectively?

A Matter of Taste

The more I’ve learned about literature, the more I’ve been able to put words to what I enjoy or don’t enjoy about a piece. For example, I probably won’t enjoy a story that doesn’t have a solid plot structure, good character development, crisp, believable dialogue, and the kind of writing that reads smoothly and engages the senses well. I also happen to prefer stories that convey a nuanced and complex message–preferably a hopeful one, but not Pollyannish. That’s my taste; it’s developed through my own encounters with literature, as a reader, a student, and a writer.

Some of the things I appreciate in literature are fairly “standard”. If you take a creative writing class, your teacher is likely to help you develop your skills to create pieces that have many of those characteristics. But that doesn’t make them objective requirements for great literature. Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse has, like, no plot. Charles Dickens was paid per word, and you can tell from his pages and pages of descriptions that any sane writing coach in the 21st century would take a serious hatchet to. Heck, even J. K. Rowling, who was my heroine as a teenager, could definitely have done with a frank conversation about conciseness vis-a-vis the latter books of the Harry Potter series. (What editor let her keep that epilogue in book #7?! Seriously!!!)

So What Makes Art “Great”?

If greatness doesn’t have objective perimeters–what makes something great?

One thing, and one thing only: it resonates with people.

That is, people connect to it and find it meaningful.

The more people the piece resonates with, the more likely it is to be considered “great”.

This is very fickle and impossible to predict. Because even the same person might feel completely differently about a piece of art if he has a different background, or different information, or is influenced by fashion and the culture around him. That’s why artists, writers, and musicians are often grouped by era; what they were doing resonated with people who were influenced by the times. Bob Dylan would probably not have won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1905. Then again, if he had been raised in the late 19th century, the stuff he’d be producing would probably have been very different.

The Quality of Your Work Isn’t Static

If what you’re producing now is not the kind of work that resonates with a lot of people, that doesn’t mean that will never change.

Talent is only a small part of what it takes to make art that resonates. Hard work, experimentation, technique, and practice have a much bigger part in creating impressive art.

You’re on a journey. As long as you stay open and willing to learn and experiment, you will continue to improve, making your work resonate with more and more people. Take a class if you like; read about your craft. Never stop viewing, reading, or otherwise enjoying art in your field; you can learn a ton from the work of other people. I can’t promise you that you’ll excel and find hundreds of thousands of fans. That, as I’ve discussed in the past, has more to do with luck than anything else.

But your job isn’t to find hundreds of thousands of fans. Your job is three things:

  1. To remember that you are the highest authority where your work is concerned. It doesn’t actually matter what anyone else thinks of it. If you think your worth is worthy–it’s worthy. Period.
  2. To find your audience–even if it’s an audience of one. If your work resonates with someone, it may resonate with more. Find those people and use their support to inspire you and improve your craft. Don’t let it discourage you if your audience is small. What matters is that you are making someone’s life richer and more meaningful with your work.
  3. To keep growing, keep practicing, and keep “daring greatly”.

The Bottom Line:

“What if I actually suck?”is not a helpful question.

This shouldn’t surprise us; it’s a self-doubt-demon question. If anyone sucks at anything, it’s self-doubt demons at coming up with helpful questions!

Here are some better questions to replace it with:

  • What am I trying to accomplish with my work?
  • Is my work achieving that goal?
  • How can I move toward that goal?
  • Who is my work resonating with?
  • Do I want it to resonate with more people?
  • How can I make that happen?

Remember item #1 on the Creative Resilience Manifesto?

I create because creation is an act of love.

Not greatness. Not success. Not talent. Love.

So get out there and show us some love.

An Interview with My Self-Doubt Demons

So my editor and I are almost finished editing the manuscript of my upcoming novel, By Light of Hidden Candles.

Among the things I’ll need to do next is start asking around for reviews and testimonials.

And… dear God almighty. It’s the absolute worst. So much scarier than querying agents or submitting to literary magazines or publishers.

Why? Because it involves putting yourself in a much more vulnerable position. You’re personally asking someone you admire to read your work and say something nice about it. The more famous the person, the more likely she is to say no (or nothing at all, which to me, is worse than no).

I started freaking out about this and found myself digging through the archives of this blog looking for something to help me feel better, and I found this piece I called “Dancing with the Self-Doubt Demons“.

The only way to navigate this is to recognize that those demons are not speaking Truth, they are speaking Fear…. don’t forget–they are still a part of you, a part of you that is trying to protect you. So don’t be too harsh on them. Be the responsible adult. Let them have their say and then, when they’ve calmed down, do the brave thing anyway.

So I decided to take my own advice.

I sat down my self-doubt demons for a thorough interview.


Daniella: Well, my friends. We meet again. Do make yourselves comfortable. Can I get you anything?

Self-Doubt Demons: How about every ounce of your self-esteem?

Daniella: Charming as always. Tea?

SDD: Sure.

Daniella: So. What brings you to me on this fine day?

SDD: This early review thing. It’s terrifying.

Daniella: What exactly are you afraid is going to happen?

SDD: We’re sorry to tell you this, but no one is going to want to read your book.

Daniella: Oh? No one?

SDD: We concede that a few individuals may be willing to take a look, but only out of pity.

Daniella: How charitable of you. And what are you afraid those individuals are going to say when they’re done reading it?

SDD: That it’s nothing special. It’s mediocre. Or maybe they’ll hate it. Maybe they’ll criticize it. Maybe they’ll write angry blog posts about how anti-[insert cause here] it is and how you are an evil person who hates [insert group here]. Or the worst worst worst? You’re a fraud. You wrote a book set in medieval and modern Spain but you know nothing about the places you wrote about and you haven’t even visited them. Someone’s going to find a flaw, a sign that you didn’t do all your research, and you will be exposed as an IMPOSTOR.

Daniella: That word. It sounds familiar.

SDD: ALSO, it’s not Real Literary Fiction™. It’s too lighthearted. It’s fluff. No author of Real Literature™ is going to think it’s any good. But it’s not Young Adult either because the characters are too old and that agent told you the “scope of the book” takes it out of YA. And it’s not New Adult because New Adult is basically Young Adult with older characters and a lot more sex scenes.

Daniella: I’ll definitely agree with you on that last point.

SDD: For real. And your book has no sex scenes. Also, as your editor repeatedly pointed out, no zombies, vampires, or werewolves.

Daniella: That was a recurring joke throughout the editing process and it was frikkin’ hilarious.

editor 8 cropped
Actual screenshot from the Google Doc.

 

SDD: –But nooooooo, instead of writing about paranormal heartthrobs, you had to write about RELIGION. RELIGION!!! WHO WANTS TO READ ABOUT RELIGION?!?!

Daniella: Not you, apparently.

SDD: AND instead of making it a fluffy kumbaya story about how we’re all actually the same, you presented the religions as being in CONFLICT! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!!!!

Daniella: I was thinking, I’m a religious woman who has a different and refreshing perspective.

SDD: “REFRESHING”

Daniella: Are you okay? You look like you need some more tea.

SDD: YES PLEASE

Daniella: Can we just steer back on track here? Realistically, a lot of these people are probably going to say no, or nothing at all, and that’s going to suck. But do you really think every single one of the people who say yes are going to hate the book? C’mon–really, let’s think this through. If you think they’ll hate it because of the subject matter–why would they agree to read it in the first place?

SDD: We… it…. hmm. You have a point there.

Daniella: Also, I know this comes as a complete surprise to you, but most people are nice and like to help. Writers, especially, like to help other writers.

SDD: BUT

Daniella: Oh yes and another thing: why do you keep talking about it like it’s a huge burden? Like I’m asking them for the world’s biggest favor? WRITERS LOVE TO READ. I’M GIVING THEM A FREE THING TO READ.

SDD: Because it takes time away from reading Other Things! Other Things which are undoubtedly much more interesting and worthwhile than By Light of Hidden Candles!

Daniella: Yeah, like what, their Facebook feeds?

SDD: HAH! Real Writers™ don’t waste precious time on Facebook!

Daniella: …I have some earth-shattering news for you, Demons.

SDD: ANYWAY YOUR BOOK IS BORING AND THE TURNING POINT IS TOO LATE AND ALSO

Daniella: INSIDE VOICES, PLEASE.

SDD: *ahem* and also, um, “too much like real life”. At least one person gave you that feedback.

Daniella: Some might argue that that’s a compliment.

SDD: And you also sent the manuscript to a bunch of people who care about you and love your writing and they never even bothered to read or finish it. BECAUSE IT’S BORING.

Daniella: Boring? Really? Then why did my publishers at Kasva Press decide to publish it?!

SDD: Because they clearly have no idea what they’re doing!

Daniella: Okay, now you’re just being rude.

SDD: We’re just telling it like it is!!!

Daniella: LOL. Sure. For the sake of the argument, if the opinion of my publisher doesn’t count: why did several agents read the full or partial manuscript and compliment me on it?

SDD: Are you forgetting that one agent who said–

Daniella: No, but why is her opinion more important than that of the others?

SDD: Maybe she was the only one willing to tell you the truth?!

Daniella: Really…?

SDD: YES, REALLY!

Daniella: Okay, I think that will be all for today. Thank you so much for your time.

SDD: BUT

Daniella: Bye-bye now.

SDD: YOU’LL NEVER AMOUNT TO ANYTHING

Daniella: The door is that way.

Dancing with the Self-Doubt Demons

I posted once on my other blog about Impostor Syndrome, and brought an anecdote that demonstrates the severity of my case.

It happened while I was reviewing a bio which was going to accompany a poem I wrote for Veils, Halos & Shackles: International Poetry on the Oppression & Empowerment of Women. The editors of the book found a publisher a few years after my poem was initially accepted, and they sent out the proof of the manuscript for us to make sure that everything was still correct and accurate. My bio started with, “Daniella Levy is a writer, poet, translator, and self defense instructor…” And my first thought when I looked at it was, “Poet…? Really? Can I call myself that? Just because I write poetry occasionally… and performed a spoken word poem once for a small audience… I dunno, does that qualify me?”

…And then it hit me that the bio in question was for a poem.

That I wrote.

That was going to be published.

In a book.

HELLO.

Of course, I have since learned that you don’t need to be published to be a poet. You don’t even have to be a good poet, by any standard. All you have to do to be a poet is write poetry.

But I have this deeply ingrained perception that continues to torture me as my career moves forward: that there is this invisible line drawn across the universe that separates the Real Artists™ from the riffraff. And the riffraff are never aware that they are riffraff. They think they are Real Artists™ who are merely misunderstood or underappreciated by The Establishment™. So they flood the “indie” industries with their mediocrity and make it that much harder to find the Real Artists™ who really are misunderstood or underappreciated or otherwise chose an alternate route to showcase their work.

And one of the major downsides of harboring such an obnoxiously arrogant worldview is that I live in fear that I am, and always will be, in the riffraff section.

Consider the following. My short story, The Olive Harvest, was published last week in Reckoning, a new literary journal for creative writing on environmental justice. This is the first time I was paid for a piece of fiction (handsomely, too), and other than Veils, Halos & Shackles, my first publication of any sort on a platform that is not specifically Jewish or Israeli. This is, objectively, an admirable accomplishment–a step higher on the ladder I’ve been steadily climbing since I published Letters to Josepand recognition from The Establishment™ that what I am writing is Real Literature™.

And yet. A couple days before publication the editor sent out the proof for contributors to look over. And you wouldn’t believe the ridiculous things my self-doubt demons started screaming at me. Your picture looks dumb! Your bio is too long! Your story isn’t all that great! It looks pathetic next to the other stories! And your bio looks pitiful next to the bios of these other highly acclaimed/generally superior writers! Or alternately–maybe this is a second-rate magazine and all the pieces in it are meh and so is yours! Your message doesn’t fit the theme of the magazine perfectly! The editor is clearly insane to have included you! Not good enough not good enough not good enough who do you think you are blah blah blah blah blah

(I sincerely apologize on behalf of my self-doubt demons, Mr. DeLuca. They are unspeakably rude and have extremely poor judgement.)

Seriously, it’s amazing. I could win the godd**n Nobel Prize for Literature and they’d be like “Clearly the committee had a terrible selection this year.” “Yeah, but they gave the same prize to Bob Dylan. And um hello Yasser Arafat. The Nobel Prize committee obviously has no idea what it’s doing.” “BUT I STILL DON’T HAVE AN ACADEMIC DEGREE SO WHAT DOES ANYTHING MATTER?”

*headdesk*

The only way to navigate this is to recognize that those demons are not speaking Truth, they are speaking Fear. They are trying to protect me, from disappointment, from external criticism, and to some degree–ironically–from shame. Self-doubt and self-criticism are part of a mechanism for inoculating oneself against making mistakes and taking unnecessary risks. This is not always bad; a little self-doubt makes you cautious and humble. A lot of self-doubt, however, can be crippling, because HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EVER GET ANYTHING DONE WITH ALL THIS NOISE IN MY HEAD?

It occurred to me recently that I have a reward system in place for my failures, and that serves me very well… but I don’t have a system for acknowledging and recognizing my accomplishments. I mean, back when I developed my “rejection chocolate system” I guess it hadn’t even occurred to me that I’d need a reward system for acceptance letters or contract signings. Getting an acceptance is its own reward, isn’t it? I imagined getting The Call from an agent or publisher, squealing and jumping up and down with excitement, crying for joy, and shouting from the rooftops!

In reality, when I got the phone call from my publisher at Kasva Press informing me that they’d like to publish An Ancient Whisper, I was in total shock. Like, staring-blankly-at-the-wall I-cannot-digest-the-concept-that-this-is-happening-in-actual-reality shock. And the emotion I felt most strongly was not joy–it was fear, of all things. The demons were saying: What if this isn’t real? What if this is like that time I was offered a contract by an “agent” who turned out to be a fraud? (This happened very early on, when I was a naive teenager, and thankfully my parents were suspicious when the “agent” asked for $250 up front. It was the worst let-down ever.) I knew that this was different, but I was afraid to let myself celebrate. I was terrified to believe it was true.

My husband, God bless him, took one look at my face and fixed me a stiff drink.

So then I told myself that I’d feel better once we had it on paper. But after we signed the contract, my primary emotion was, once again, anxiety. What if we missed something? What if this is all a terrible idea? What if the publisher invests a ton of money and time in this book and people hate it and it doesn’t sell? What if people write nasty reviews? What if what if what if

It. Never. Ends.

And I think that, paradoxically, is the key to dealing with these critical and fearful voices. Recognizing that it doesn’t end. They will always find something to say.

So… you can do what I do, and externalize them as “self-doubt demons,” who you can write letters to, dialogue with, and laugh at. But if you do this, don’t forget–they are still a part of you, a part of you that is trying to protect you. So don’t be too harsh on them. Be the responsible adult. Let them have their say and then, when they’ve calmed down, do the brave thing anyway.

And as for the riffraff section: it’s like I wrote in my previous post. “Not being great doesn’t make me unworthy. It doesn’t mean my work shouldn’t be shared and enjoyed by other people.” You don’t have to be a Great Artist™ for your work to be worth sharing. Some people are going to love it. Some people are going to hate it. Whether it complies with some stuffy academic standard of excellence is not what’s important. What’s important is that you are genuine about who you are and what you’re doing, and that you keep seeking the audience that connects with your work, because it changes their lives for the better and makes them feel less alone.

That is what matters.

Letters to My Self-Doubt Demons

Dear Never-Good-Enough Demon,

You are an insane and unreasonable perfectionist with completely impossible standards.

Chill the heck out.

Sincerely,

Daniella


Dear Who-Do-You-Think-You-Are Demon,

Let’s make this one thing clear.

Just because I am not a Great Writer™, doesn’t mean my work does not deserve to see the light of day.

Just because I may never be able to write with the brilliance of J. K. Rowling, Dara Horn, or Ernest Hemingway, does not mean my writing is of no value.

So please stop citing my general inferiority as a reason to despair, give up, or cease my efforts to improve my writing and get it published. It’s just stupid.

Sincerely,

Daniella


Dear I’ll-Never-Have-Another-Good-Idea Demon,

Okay… you know, let’s do a little thought experiment where this fear materializes and I die never having written another story I love.

Now read this carefully because it’s important.

It won’t matter.

Much as I enjoy defining myself as a writer, much as I dreamed of one day introducing myself as “Daniella Levy, author”–author is not all I am. My writing, and its quality, does not define me as a person, and if I never accomplish anything great with my writing, that doesn’t mean I won’t have accomplished anything worth being proud of.

I am a human being. I am a friend, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a mother, and an aunt. I’ve raised three little boys to the ages of 7, 6, and 4, and they are happy and healthy and kind little guys who are not afraid to cry, who stick up for each other and for their friends, and who spontaneously express gratitude. That is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life so far. It won’t get me into any hall of fame, but who cares?

If I never write another story I love, I will still pray with tears streaming down my face; I will still sing at the top of my voice while washing dishes; I will still love deeply and fiercely; I will still support my friends and family; I will still wrestle with God; I will still bake the most delicious challah for Shabbat; I will still listen, I will still give solid hugs, I will still do what I can to inspire and encourage people, and raise my children to create a better world than the one I will leave.

The most important story I will ever create is that of my life, and it won’t need to be written anywhere.

Sincerely,

Daniella


Dear You’re-Nothing-Special Demon,

Neither are you.

Also, being special is overrated. I am me, and that’s enough, and you don’t get to tell me otherwise.

Sincerely,

Daniella


Dear This-Is-All-Pointless Demon,

I apologize for the impersonal nature of this letter. I receive hundreds of proposals from various demons and I wish I had time to respond to them all individually. I carefully consider every submission I receive, and I’m afraid I did not find yours to be a good fit for me at this time. Please note that this is a highly subjective market and another writer may feel differently.

I wish you the best of luck in your search for a creative person to torture.

Best,

Daniella