YOU MAY NOT REALIZE IT WHEN IT HAPPENS,
BUT A KICK IN THE TEETH MAY BE
THE BEST THING IN THE WORLD FOR YOU.
Many years ago - I'm talking over 15 of them! - I applied to grad school, hoping to get a Masters in Creative Writing. I threw myself into it - I studied for the GRE, I contacted professors for recommendations, I put together a collection of my stories and submitted them. I hoped, I prayed, I planned, I waited.
I didn't get in.
To say it was a blow would be an understatement. It felt like the spawn of a tornado and a hurricane struck me, knocked me down, and did a jig on my soul. How could this happen? I had the grades, the recommendations. It must've been my writing. I looked at my stories again. I thought they were good. That's when I noticed it. A misspelled word. In the title of one story. And throughout the entire story. I. Was. Mortified.
It's a safe bet other factors influenced the decision to reject me other than just that misspelled word, but I'm sure that didn't help. Today, I would quadruple check every single thing in the submission packet, plus have my husband do the same. Maybe even ask random strangers, too, just for a fresh pair of eyes. Today, I would suck it up and contact the admissions people to try and find out why I didn't get in, what I could do differently next time, etc. But back then?
I crawled into a hole. I cried. I never contacted the school. I never tried again.
Where would I be right now if I had gotten into the program? Would I have a bestseller or two? Would I be teaching? I don't know. What I do know is that "kick in the teeth" showed me how badly I wanted to write. It showed me if I was going to do it, I needed to set my own path, create my own syllabus. It showed me I needed to pay more attention to not only the craft but also to the technical details. It showed me I needed more humility and more gumption.
Obviously, I didn't learn all of that right away. I stayed in that hole quite awhile. But that's the point of the quote. You just don't know if that slump you're in right now, if that latest agent's rejection you just read, if that bad review on Amazon, will be the kick in the teeth that propels you on your way to bigger and better things.
Hang in there!