Thursday, November 24, 2011

'Life can be suck'

Okay, so I’m usually the first person to pull out the whole “Everything happens for a reason” thing when a friend is going through a shitty time. I’m the girl who tries to make them feel better by bringing up examples of when I lost my job/ boyfriend/ passport/ way, and cursed the gods for my predicament before realising that what I’d perceived as a ‘loss’ was actually a ‘gain’, of sorts.

I’m the girl who has affirmations written on scraps of paper - stuck above my bed, on my bathroom mirror and on the back of the toilet door – that read: ‘All of life comes to me with ease, joy and grace’ and ‘What else is possible!?’ and ‘What magic and miracle can I be and receive today?!’ (God only knows what Amy from LJ Hooker thinks of me when she does her regular inspections of my rental unit).

But as 2011 draws to a close, I’m contemplating the notion that everything, apparently, happens for a reason and part of me is screaming (on the inside, not on the outside, because I’m not a crazy person, yet) ‘SO WHAT’S THE GOD DAMN REASON?!’

A few months ago I attended the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival. To get accepted, as an independent author, was quite an achievement and involved a fair few emails to the festival director, gently encouraging her to pick up my book and listen to my CD…which she did. Thankfully she liked both and invited me to participate.

During the festival I was like the Energizer Bunny. I didn’t want to miss a single opportunity to network. I took part in discussion panels and workshops. I presented my book at official festival sessions. I put my hand up for media interviews. I gave out bookmarks to promote my memoir and put up posters around the festival site to plug my gigs (with the help of my most lovely lad and his super duper duct tape).

On the final day of the festival I was given the rare opportunity to pitch my book to three of Australia’s top publishers. I had five minutes to convince them of my memoir’s worth. As I stood before the reps from Penguin, Harper Collins and Murdoch Books and launched into my spiel (which I’d spent the weekend rehearsing) I got a huge rush. I knew that I had nailed it.

“I loved your book,” the first publisher said.

“I’d heard about your book even before I came to the festival,” the second one said.

“Not only is this a great read, it has also been published in a very professional manner. Have you thought about a career in publishing?” the third publisher said.

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This was my moment. This was when I signed my super-fab book deal. This was why I’d been working so hard. This was the reward for ‘taking a risk’ and self-publishing…for diving in the creative deep end. And then the woman from Murdoch said:

“But I wouldn’t be interested in signing a deal for this book. It’s already ‘out there’. You’ve done an amazing job with your branding and publicity so there’s not much more we could do. We don’t really take on books that have already been released but be sure to touch base when you’ve got an idea for your next book.”

The other two panelists chimed in with similar words but I didn’t really hear them as I was too distracted by the feeling of my heart sinking. I left the festival feeling weary.


A few weeks later I found out about an arts funding program that offered travel grants to writers, enabling them to spend several months overseas – working on their creative pursuits.

‘Screw the Australian publishing industry,’ I thought, ‘I’m gonna get a grant and go overseas! This is what I’ve been waiting for! This is why I didn’t get an Australian book deal. There are bigger and better things waiting for me. I’ll do an overseas tour and an awesome international publishing house will snap me up. It all makes sense now!’

And so I spent the best part of the next month researching and writing my funding application...forgetting all about my Bryon rejection.

I sent the draft to my friends who work in various fields – from university professors, to ex-arts festival directors – and took on their constructive criticism. I re-wrote it and then re-wrote it again until I had myself completely convinced. There was no way I could NOT get this grant. And besides, I am a powerful person. I can MANIFEST success. The funding is MINE. I even popped up a new affirmation on my wall ‘I am grateful for securing arts funding for an overseas creative adventure in 2012’. It was a done deal.

Last week I got the email. I didn’t bother reading past the first line: “It is with regret that we inform you…”

I emailed the funding coordinator to ask if she had some constructive feedback about my application. After all, I’d put a month of my life into the document so I figured, as difficult as the response might be, it was important to learn from the experience.

Her reply came almost instantly: “Unfortunately, we do not have the resources to provide detailed feedback on your application…”

And so I sat staring out the window as the following thoughts ran down my cheeks.

“No. No. No. This is not how it’s meant to play out. This isn’t what happens when I put my heart and soul into something. This is the part where the Universe rewards me. This is the bit where I get to post the blog about how ‘dreams come true when you follow your creative passions’. Frig YOU Universe! You SUCK!”


My friend Natalija says I was obviously too ‘attached’ to the grant and – as all good Buddhists know - attachment causes suffering. My friend Peung sent me a g-chat message that said ‘Khun Ange, life can be suck’. I told my friend Kaz that I felt like a loser, a complete failure. She said she thinks I need to reconsider my definition of ‘failure’. She also recommended I take the rest of the day off and indulge in a few DVDs. My partner Leroy said “I love you. I’m proud of you. Everything is going to be okay” but he actually says that on a regular basis, no matter what issue I throw at him, because I’ve explained to him that he must never try to solve my problems – but instead, offer up three simple phrases of support.

When I told him I didn’t get the arts grant – he fired off all three. In fact, sensing we were dealing with a situation that was bigger than the usual ‘Ange dilemmas’, he repeated each line a few times. He’s a good boy.

* * *

I’ve been thinking about careers in creativity…how artists like myself can get caught up in a pipedream that one day we’ll be ‘discovered’. One day we’ll be offered that big fat record deal or publishing contract, or invited onboard the arts funding gravy train. And when it happens – all those hours of self promotion, self publishing, self motivation, touring, booking gigs, playing gigs – will have been worth it because we’ll have hit the ‘big time’.

It seems that the artistic pipedream is similar to the romantic Hollywood-fueled idea that once you find ‘Mr Right’ then you’ll basically live happily ever after. And all the assholes you dated would have been worth it because – finally – the Universe will have rewarded you with the man of your dreams.

As an artist – the man of my dreams is the ‘big deal’ and this dream is egged-on by stories of ‘some chick’ who posted some clip on youtube and became an overnight success. Or ‘some dude’ who paid some newsagent to put his book in the shop window and got signed by a publisher a few months later and is now, like, Australia’s most successful author.

And those stories lead to a belief that if one works hard enough, and puts enough passion into one’s life’s purpose - that one day it will all pay off. The pain is found in the fact that my concept of the term ‘pay off’ is clearly different to that of the Universe’s.

As an optimist, I have to believe that ‘everything happens for a reason’ but wouldn’t it be nice if the explanation came to us in a little envelope, along with the rejection letter from the arts funding body.

Surely, after we try so hard to achieve something and then have those efforts ignored by the ‘powers that be’, the Universe could, at the very least, post us a note on Twitter – a few words – just 140 characters of encouragement. Something like “The reason you didn’t get X is because there’s an über-special plan B heading your way!

Maybe the reason there’s no Tweet from the Universe is because sometimes there’s just no explanation. Sometimes you can work your butt off and fail and maybe the failure wouldn’t be as painful if people like me didn’t waste endless hours looking for the reason, but rather – just accepted that ‘life can be suck’.

8 comments:

  1. Oh Ange - my heart goes out to you. You are so brave to put yourself out there and then have to suffer the knock backs. Yes life sucks sometimes but I admire your spirit and determination. Just keep doing what you love - sing and write. Many people love what you do including myself and everyone I have recommended your book and CD to has loved it. I can't put myself out there like you do as I would not cope with the rejection part. I am not strong like you - but hang on to the good things, do what makes you happy and surround yourself with people you love. Everything is gonna be all right now...

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  2. Bless you Ange. You are a wonderful precious being who is discovering there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it was always an illusion. What you are failing to see is how powerful, self determined, creative and inspirational you have become while you searched for the pot of gold. The life's lessons you are yet to fully are unwrap are and will be of huge value to you throughout life. Now I would love to suggest using all this energy and publisher's acknowledgement you pitch your book to an American publishing house... an untapped market for a 'proven' book. Even if you are successful don't be fooled it's still not the pot of gold, just another step. All the best, always.

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  3. Ange, don't overlook the amazing successes you already have clocked up. Album of the week on radio! how many festivals accepted you for performing just this last year? How many books have you sold? How fantastic was the publishers' feedback? -remember they didn't reject the book just that it was already published. All the brownie points for those achievements are accruing and will continue to pay off somehow. I would love to have even just one of those achievements under my belt in this crazy business (and yes, I publish too, and apply for grants).
    Kathlyn's right, try the States or GB -the book hasn't been launched there has it? and the markets are enormous. My first book (academic) was published in the UK.
    Finally regarding the reason why this has happened? So you write the next book, of course!
    Best wishes, Lelly K

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  4. Thank you Linda... although I think that 'sailing around the world' means that you ARE strong...not sure I could do what you did :) I appreciate your comments and support.

    Kathlyn, you are obviously a very wise woman. Oh, that damn rainbow and all of it's golden promises! I'm learning to just admire it's colours, rather than sweating it out in search of that pot. Thanks for your suggestions regarding America. I have sent the book to a few people over there but I should put more energy into it.

    Lelly - thank you for your words of encouragement and for adding your perspective. I feel very grateful for the things that I've achieved and the experiences I've had on my creative path. I suppose that every now and then, one loses sight of the things that really matter. But it's good to have people like you and Kathyln and Linda to remind me :) Your last line put a huge smile on my face. Thank you!

    "Our path is not soft grass, it's a mountain path with lots of rocks. But it goes upward, forward, toward the sun" - Ruth Westheimer

    Amen!

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  5. Dearest Ange,
    I read your book while initially recovering from brain surgery and found it therapeutic and inspirational. I love your music and have since I first heard it at the house with no walls and met you there :) Some times I think we look to hard at "what went wrong" and not enough at "what have I learned from this" and "what has gone right". You are a brilliant successful amazing woman. I cannot recommend you to enough people or spread you music and words far enough.

    Some times life is the suck but it gets better :)

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  6. Thanks so much Jules. You're a 'good good woman' and I'm so blessed to have people like you in my life. I hope you've made a full recovery. Sending you love.

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  7. Thanks Ange, I'm improving every day :) Recovering from brain surgery takes 18 months to 3 years. I'm at 9/10 months now and hoping I'll be one of the 18 month recoveries. It will be what it will be in the end. I'm just happy to still be here and able to spend time in this amazing world we live in :)

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  8. Hey Ange-

    Heartfelt post! I reckon you rock, and I know you have a lot more "success" with your creative career than a lot of other people do (I count myself here). I admit to some envy!

    We (our trio- myself, my lovely wife, Marianne, and our good friend Anita) were all lined up to record our first studio album the first weekend of December 2011- then Marianne came down with a cold literally days before we were due to kick off- so we had to cancel out our engineer who was about to hop on a plane from Sydney, the studio etc etc... Could have been a bummer.

    "Three more months to get those songs even better!" was my first thought. And a couple of them have shifted in a big way since- the album will be better for it.

    Don't get trapped in the success myth.

    You are a huge success! Me- I can't get into that- my creative life is in tandem with running a full time home visit vet practice, being a share care dad, married, running our home, health restraints etc etc etc. Not to say I have no ambition!!! I have truckloads of that, I want to take my music to the skies, and beyond.

    But I gotta be happy with the what is... I can't be sure if there is a greater "plan" or beingness to life... But I choose to act as if there is. I am happier, and my life has more meaning, when I do. Keep writing. Keep singing. Keep touching our lives with your grace. More success will come, it is inevitable.

    Happy new year, ed

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