The idea of putting ourselves first makes us feel a little selfish, doesn't it? And being selfish is bad, right? Who likes a selfish person, huh?
A couple of months ago I learned an important lesson in putting myself first. Last fall there was a call for submissions to the Henderson Writers' Group's biannual anthology, Writer's Bloc, with a January 1 deadline. I'd already had pieces published in the three previous collections and I hadn't written anything worthwhile in who knows how long, so wasn't that motivated to submit this time around. I figured I'd pass.
Mike is also a member of the HWG (that's where we met) and we both had pieces in the 2010 anthology. He's had a children's story, "Duckly Takes a Dip," in the works for ages, but with our wedding and everything, time slipped away. January 1 came and went and it looked like neither of us would be included in the anthology for 2012.
Then we learned the deadline was extended a few days and we decided we'd go balls to the wall and get his story in shape, hoping it would accepted for publication. We spent hours together on Duckly. I am a pain-in-the-ass editor, as my clients will tell you, and when you take on the editor role with your spouse, you're just asking for trouble. Mike is awesome about that, though, and we got "Duckly Takes a Dip" submitted with about 20 minutes to spare before the midnight deadline.
After he clicked SEND, Mike turned to me and said, "Are you sure you don't have anything to submit?"
The only thing I could think to submit was the essays I'd recorded two summers ago for WAMC Northeast Public Radio. "There's nothing substantial here, though," I told him. "I don't think they're weighty enough." Mike urged me to package them together and send them off, so I did.
Several weeks later, the pieces accepted for publication were posted in the HWG weekly newsletter. Mike's story was accepted; my essays were not. I wasn't surprised that my submission was rejected, and had inclusion been really important to me, I certainly would have worked hard to submit something, but still I was rejected.
It was the best thing that could have happened. A gift.
Being rejected made me realize I'd been putting other people's priorities ahead of my own, and even worse, I'd been slacking when it came to my creative endeavors. Aside from my blog posts, I had nothing to show for myself. It had been months since I'd been on stage to do a comedy set--not even an open mic. Things had to change, and I sent that message out to the universe.
As if like magic, things began to happen. I got a call to perform at the Leatherneck's Club, which I always enjoy. I was asked to contribute an article for a monthly e-zine for writers, and my "10 Ways to Inject Humor into Your Memoir" was published. I was contacted with the opportunity to headline at the Comedy Syndrome Comedy Club in Albany, where I pulled in not only record-breaking attendance figures, but pulled off a great 45-minute set (clips here). A couple of weekends ago I took Jerry Corley's fabulous comedy writing class and then that Sunday night performed at the Rio.
Best of all, now I've finally begun working on my next book and I'm pumped about it. Details to come.
Don't get me wrong; I was happy to help Mike with his story. We work together like that all the time and it's a joy to collaborate with him. But spending hours helping him organize his crap in the garage (a never ending job since he keeps bringing more crap in) or picking up after the kids--his kids--over and over again is another story.
The bottom line is, ultimately you have to put yourself first. It's all a matter of balance, and I was clearly out of balance. And as a Libra, I'm all about balance.