Once Bitten

Photograph by Chloe Green 2012

My dog, Lilly, was bitten by another dog this week.

Ouch.

The vet stapled her wound shut, and if that wasn’t dismal enough, condemned her to wear ‘the cone of shame’ for ten days. Like any self respecting animal, Lilly was desperate to lick her wound. She moped around the house forlornly. She whimpered. She kept me up for two nights sitting by the edge of my bed staring at me, determined that I would be the guest of honour at her pity party. It worked. It’s ridiculously hard to resist those beautiful brown eyes, even at 3am. The following day I gave in and removed her cone, vowing to watch her vigilantly to prevent her inflicting any further damage. Of course I got distracted.  I have a university degree in getting distracted (with distinction). After a twenty minute phone call, I returned to find Lilly gleefully licking her laceration. She wagged her tail triumphantly, having managed to pull out the staples and open the wound.  Lilly and I spent another hour at the vet.

She was hurt all over again.

We do that don’t we? We feel attacked. Bitten. Injured. Disappointed. And we hold on. Sometimes we find it almost impossible to not keep returning to our wound and reopening it, repeatedly.

I completed a novel last year, succeeded in securing an agent, and like thousands of others who submit full of optimism and sparkle, my book was rejected. Many times.  I spent months, not unlike Lilly, feeling sorry for myself and gouging at my wound. I longed for the life I was leading in the run up to the submission, full of promise and potential. I attempted to begin another novel, but without the validation I had been seeking, my enthusiasm for my craft wobbled and wavered. Eventually, a scab began to form and with the scab new ideas and resolve slowly began to generate. I decided to write about my experience of rejection, as a means of catharsis, but also as a way of fielding the constant questioning from everyone I knew.

Them: “So,what’s happening with your book?”
Me: “Ummmm….”

I sent my ode to rejection to a group of family and friends and it spread from there. The encouragement and support I received in return was awesome. The rally around me was palpable. My willingness to lay myself bare seemed to inspire people.

Suddenly it was clear to me.

I had been contemplating the idea of Write To Be You for some time, but had been too focused on the novel to initiate motion. I wanted to create a community that drew together my psychotherapy training and my writing background. I wanted to design a space for myself and others that didn’t rely purely on external approval. I imagined a forum where I could encourage others to write to make connection to themselves, rather than to please someone else. A bright, luminous lightbulb appeared above my head and Write To Be You Workshopsand blog were born.The ethos: write from your heart and your words will find a pulse. 

My intention, restated, is:

To offer a safe, empathic environment where we can contemplate wounds, reveal scabs and scars, and support one another in not constantly reopening the cuts and watching them bleed. Write To Be You is a call to creative action.  A wish that everyone reading will spend some time reflecting on the posts and writing, even if it is just for a few minutes or a few lines.  I’m showing up here every Monday and every Thursday with an invitation for you to write and to share. All your stories, responses and thoughts are read by me and published in the comments section, where we can weave together common threads, as well as delight in our differences.

If you choose to write, even for just ten minutes, twice a week, in a matter of months you will have a lively notebook. I’m also regularly challenging you to a Ready, Steady, Write… an opportunity to launch your imagination or your thoughts from an image and watch your words as they fly.

So please join Lilly (who is on the mend) and me in this new phase of promise and potential. We both may have been once bitten, but we’ve come to understand, there is little to be gained from being twice shy.

If you’re interested in the piece I originally wrote “It’s good, but…” Reflections on Rejection, it has been published on Single Minded Women. Click here to read.

And now to my readers – what has bitten you and how have you reacted? Have you been picking at a wound or finding it hard to move away from shame? What advice or stories do you have for other readers who are grappling with rejection?  Your responses are welcomed here always…. ten minutes, ten lines… just write…

7 Responses to “Once Bitten”

  1. Adam Lasky
    February 20, 2012 at 5:51 pm #

    Great post Rory! I totally resonate with the being rejected (what writer hasn't?) and walking around with those wounds. I remember one time I was helping my wife try to boost her website traffic by brainstorming possible blogging topics. About half-way through the conversation she said that she thinks blogging and writing are a waste of time and ultimately pointless. I just looked at her and completely shut down. Now, my wife has been the most supportive person I could ever imagine, but this one hurt. Big time. I didn't write for a week. I started deleting some of my unpublished blog posts. Then I realized what I was doing when I came across one of my earlier writings that said "I don't write for people. I write for myself." Powerful line. Now I handle rejection (which seems to be daily) by remembering those lines. I write for myself.

  2. Rory Green
    February 20, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

    Thanks, Adam! Many years ago I showed my husband the first sixty pages of a novel and I didn't get the reaction I was anticipating. I let that shut me down for FAR too long… I realised after the fact, that it was my way of defending myself… not from my hubby, but from my own shaky confidence and low self esteem. At the time, It was easier to blame him than to look inwards. Awareness always brings growth. Thank you so much for opening up about your experience!

  3. Elle
    February 22, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    I like this post a lot, Rory! And I love this line: "determined that I would be the guest of honour at her pity party." So perfect. This weekend I read John Locke's book about how he sold over 1million ebooks in 5 months — anyway, there was one point in it that really struck me — he argued that every bad review you get just means that your book (blog, whatever) got into the hands of someone who WASN'T in your target audience. The more rejections / bad reviews you get, the more finely tuned your niche audience is. Which is actually a good thing. I just thought that was such a healthy way to look at it.

  4. Rory Green
    February 22, 2012 at 6:40 am #

    Thanks, Elle! Interesting point about the 'target audience'… I guess the lesson for all of is to keep on writing if the process brings us fulfilment, even without the promise of 1 million readers (though that would be fun!) 'Success' is not always related directly to talent… as we all know. The wonderful thing about being a writer in this point in history is that many more people have opportunities to see their words fly, without having to rely on a panel of expert bird handlers. The difficult thing about being a reader is choosing whose words to focus our attention on because there are more choices now than ever before and the skies are full. Lots to contemplate. In the meantime… write! Right?!

  5. Gaby Zein
    February 22, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    You mustn't forget that your rejection is our gain. Write to be You has become one of the highlights of my week. A time for reflection. A short window to contemplate the wider world and leave the mundane, everyday behind. Your thoughts allow me to daydream with purpose. And I love to daydream. Now my cup is half full as much as it is half empty. Soon, with a bit of courage mixed with a dash of time I may even Ready, Steady, Write…and by the way I am telling everyone at NHP that they must get on board this train. Fast!

  6. Rory Green
    February 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm #

    Thank you, Gaby! I love your description of 'daydreaming with purpose'. If I am inspiring you to do that, then I have certainly achieved what I set out to do. I very much look forward to seeing you show up here again…it will never be the 'perfect' time, so please jump whenever you feel the urge! Thank you again for your kind words of encouragement 🙂

  7. Frahnseen
    February 24, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    Once bitten. Failure. Oooh. Been there. done that. 2010 was my year I decided to not worry about failure. Just do it. Started my foray into writing retreats. Walk through my greatest fear- reading my writing out loud to strangers. That same year I signed up for a 100 mile bike ride around Lake Tahoe and I had to raise $4,200 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to be able to go. Another great fear – asking for money. It was scarier than the thought of riding 100 miles in the mountains. Then in May I decided to swim in a two kilometer event in Town Lake in my home town of Austin, Texas. I had swum a 5K the year before in Lake Travis and it went well. This even was an entirely different story. it started from the bottom of the dam in Lake Austin and the water coming out was colder than cold. It was so cold there should’ve been ice floating in it. F-f-f-freezing. I was there with some of my masters swim team swimmers who had done this event several times before and had a great time. I got in the water to swim to the start and had trouble breathing. I got out once onto the rescue boat to catch my breath and then dove back in for another try. How could I be swimming so hard and not getting any closer to the start? Then the murky thought of drowning slipped into the cold water with me and the thought ran through my head that I didn’t survive cancer twice to drown in the lake. That was it. I swam back to the rescue boat and rode it all the way to the finish. It stayed behind the last swimmer so it was a long ride back.. never failed before todaynow it’s donethere’s no never anymorei talked bigI wasn’t going to be afraid to failbut the reality is painfulego busting, embarrassing, confidence disintegrating into those twenty-seven voices in my headif I can fail at this, why not everything elseas the music hits that soulful soundtears flow free as I drive down the roadto the library to return the moviesi’m going through the motionsbut there’s another twisted plot going on within mereally painfulloss of face or the fear I felt?it’s not clear to memaybe something completely unrelatedto the humiliation of the daywant to run and hidebehind the safety of my walldon’t want to go to school anymorethey’ll laugh at me and poke funthe whispers will be of mei want to diei want to disappearcan’t face the worldwith failure in my eyes

Leave a Reply