“Oh, it’s crazy/ It’s crazy up in here/ I’m inside my head/ How do I get out of it?”
This is the chorus in Fallulah’s song “Out of It” off her debut album “The Black Cat Neighborhood,” which was released in 2011. I can’t tell you how much I listened to this song at the end of last month. It was just too perfect for my mindset at the time—an unhealthy cocktail of anxiety and obsession with a dash of agonizing self-doubt and fiendish hope.
If you’re thinking, “Umm…what the heck are you talking about?” here’s what happened.
In mid-August, I entered my manuscript into a writing contest called Pitch Wars. There are one hundred author mentors who agree to take on one unpublished author (like me) as a mentee. After the mentors announce their chosen mentee, the mentor-mentee team spends two months working very closely on revising the mentee’s novel and preparing it to pitch to literary agents. As a mentee hopeful, I could submit my manuscript to five mentors by August 17. Almost 1600 people submitted novels. All 1600 of us had to wait until Sep 1 to find out 1) if we were chosen and 2) by whom.
That meant two and a half weeks of waiting. Two and a half weeks of my stomach lurching every time a new email came in (because some mentors would request to read more pages). Two and a half weeks of stalking—yes stalking—my mentor picks on Twitter. Two and a half weeks of bouncing between “I absolutely suck. There’s no way I’m getting chosen,” and “Maybe, maybe there’s a slim chance.”
I’d never encountered this side of my psyche. I’m usually pretty chill about my writing, able to visualize the big picture and reaffirm to myself that even if my book isn’t published, even if no one but a few friends read it, I’ve grown and learned so much while writing it. But entering into this contest awakened some really dark thoughts in my head. Like Fallulah says, I was “thinking in circles I cannot abide.”
I really, really didn’t like being this way, and I kind of had to take a step back and ask myself, “Is this how you want to function throughout your entire writing career?”
The answer to that question is no—in the deepest parts of me, no.
Bulaong’s word of the month, “connection” gave me the motivation and mental fortitude I needed to get in touch with boundaries for myself (how often I could check my email or see what my mentors were up to on Twitter, plus some thoughts I could repeat to myself when I started getting too down or hopeless.) Then I’d turn on “Out of It” and dance. Or do yoga while I was listening to it. Or just close my eyes and take deep breaths as her stunning voice filled my ears.
Because in the song, while she encounters self-doubt and anxiety like me, she also offers encouragement which reminded me why I wanted to submit in the first place. “I’ll never know what I’m capable of/ If I don’t go where I’m scared to be lost.”
In the end I was chosen as a mentee. Yay! My mentor is a lovely woman named Summer Spence. She’s been pushing me more than I ever thought possible. And now that I’m on the other side of that initial submission period, I know my worrying had zero effect on the results.
Often, the things we want most are completely out of our control. We can work hard. We can hope. We can invite wonderful things into our lives. Sometimes magic happens, and we get what we want. Then sometimes we don’t. Being selected was a result of hard work and lots and lots of luck. Anxiety had nothing to do with it.
The next step in my writing journey, whatever it may be, will include similar types of waiting and anticipation. I’m hoping this experience will allow me to survive it with my mental and emotional well-being intact.
Have you ever put yourself out there with a passion project? What was it and how did you deal with the waiting? I’d love to learn some techniques on dealing with this particular kind of anxiety!
If you like “Out of It” by Fallulah, also check out “Only Human” and “Bridges.”