by Dr. Diane Rogers
Can This Be Real?
Eleven years ago, I sat in a major international publisher’s office. Sweaty-palmed and butterfly-stomached, I gazed out over the sweeping harbor view from the 45th floor of an imposing tower in downtown Sydney, Australia, where I lived at the time.
“Can this be real?” I wondered.
In a moment of panic, I ventured it had all come too easily. I didn’t have an agent. I had never sent a query letter. A friend of a friend had heard about my book and thought a mutual friend (the children’s publisher) would be interested.
She was. And she contacted me.
I Felt Like an Imposter
Despite my excitement about the possibility of being “picked up” by a traditional publisher, I felt like an imposter. The book—both words and illustrations—arrived one day as though some random portal to higher creativity opened and transported me into its sacred inner sanctum. At best, I was an unintentional conduit, not an artist.
As the publisher discussed her vision for my work, I felt more like the unlikely recipient of a creative lottery than an author. After all, writing and illustrating didn’t count as my day job. How could I be a “real” author? If I hadn’t labored, if I hadn’t suffered or sacrificed for my art, how could my flukish work be good enough to publish?
Growing up, I’d absorbed the Teutonic ethos that significance and solemn effort go hand in hand. My family believed creativity (and leisure) was for children and other non-intellectuals. Serious, money-earning work was meant to be neither uplifting nor easy.
But in as much as I doubted myself and tried to diminish myself, the publisher laid out a vision for my manuscript far bigger than I could have ever imagined. She believed in the book and she believed in me. In the months that followed, I got a front row seat into the world of traditional publishing.
In commercial business, however, decisions rarely fall to a single person. In 2006, the sales staff didn’t consider “bullying” a significant enough topic in Australia. “It won’t sell enough copies,” they said. “Sunflowers won’t appeal to boys,” they said. “It’s ahead of its time,” the publisher argued.
I had done the research. I had tested my new book in a program with over 350 Kindergarten through grade six children in schools across varying demographic areas. In spite of the evidence I’d gathered, the female publisher could not sway the naysayers. Naturally, I was disappointed. But I also had the support of a family and successful career. My world wouldn’t end.
To Quit or To Create—That Is the Question
I was tempted to succumb to self-doubt, to walk away from my creative aspirations. But when you write a book about courage, self-belief, and creativity, there comes a time when you have to drink your own medicine.
Honor the Gift
It was time to get creative. I considered the possibility that the book wasn’t mine at all—it belonged to the Universe. Instead of thinking of my work as a random act of frivolity, I started to see it as a gift. If the Universe had made me the custodian of its creative contribution, then I was a guardian rather than an imposter. Developing a deep belief in the legitimacy of creativity helped me overcome my own self-limiting beliefs about the validity of my work. Creative gifts, I decided, deserve to be honored. To do that, I had to set my misgivings aside, get to work, and put success in my own hands.
Passion Creates Courage
I may not have known how to be an author, but I was a mother. I knew how to guide and protect. When I channeled my ferocious love for my children into my creative life, I developed the courage I’d written about. I threw myself into research. I reached out to others. I educated myself.
Fake It ‘Till You Make It, Baby
Emboldened with information, I set out on a richly rewarding self-publishing journey and never looked back. I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing at all times, but I kept going. In the first year alone, I sold three times the number of copies the publisher’s sales staff estimated would sell.
Trust the Process
As a hands-on person and a busy mom with a full-time career, self-publishing turned out to be the right path for me. At the time, it gave me the freedom I needed to go at my own pace. I found indie distributors and booksellers who believed in my book. I went to schools, spoke to teachers, parents, and community groups. I soon found myself invited to speak at international conferences. And on it went.
To Doubt Is Human. To Overcome Is Creative
The point is, we all have doubts. As imaginative beings, our job is to choose between the temptation to crumble or the courage to create. The next time you’re tempted to succumb to self-doubt, hold on to these five tips:
- Honor the gift
- Believe in creativity when you lose faith in yourself
- Passion creates courage
- Fake it ‘till you make it, baby
- Trust the process
Are you ever tempted to diminish your work? What is your secret for overcoming your creative doubts?
After retiring from a corporate career in business transformation and change management, Dr. Diane Rogers brings her expertise in social psychology to classrooms and families.
Her first picture book, Stand Tall, made its debut at the 2008 Seeds of Compassion Conference in Seattle, Washington featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. A week after the book’s release, the State of Washington selected Stand Tall as an official teaching resource for compassionate education. Diane’s other published works include Emerge, A Story of Confidence, and When We All Stand Tall. To find out more, visit www.drdianerogers.com.
A self-professed global nomad, when they aren’t traveling on or jumping out of planes, Diane and her husband Kevin triangulate between Sydney, Australia, Newport Beach, and their sailboat in the Mediterranean.
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