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How To Not Give Up on Your Dreams After Years Of Rejection



How To Not Give Up on Your Dreams

After years of receiving rejections in response to my writing submissions, I received acceptances from three different publishers within one week in August 2015. One offer was for Dodging Eros, Through Past, Present and Pleasure, which had been accepted, then rejected by agents, editors, and publishers multiple times since 2011. The two other offers were for a novella I’d written earlier in the year for an anthology that was later cancelled.

How To Not Give Up on Your Dreams After Years Of Rejection

Here are my lessons learned:


1. There’s joy in the doing of an activity.

Keep studying, training, practicing, rehearsing, refining. Skills and talents improve with diligent pursuit of study and practice.


2. After some swear words, tears, a ménage a trois with Ben & Jerry, and meditation seriously consider the elements of truth in constructive criticism and negative feedback.

When I entered the first five pages of Dodging Eros in a contest one of the judges scolded me for beginning the story during the 1920s while classifying it as contemporary erotica. Her lecture led me to identify the prologue as “the past” and to add a subtitle of “Through Past, Present and Pleasure” to avoid confusion for future readers.


A prestigious literary agent offered me representation based on my query letter, then rescinded the offer after reading the full manuscript (twice!) because it referenced more than one genre, making it difficult to pitch to editors. That response led to my adding “mashup” and “cheeky spoof” to my description of Dodging Eros in subsequent queries.


The first time DE was accepted by an independent publisher the editor-in-chief asked me to consider expanding it into a trilogy instead of one story in three parts like a braid or a layered cake. Creating prologues for the second and third parts, titles for each chapter, and adding 12k words strengthened DE overall. It also refined and clarified the story structure, the characters, and overlapping thematic threads. The deal still collapsed.


Finally, in August 2014, on the day after I quietly decided to stop submitting my work to anyone for at least the next six months, another independent publisher seemed to accept Dodging Eros because of its quirkiness, not in spite of it. Almost immediately it became clear that we were a mismatch in creative writing philosophy, but the editor spotted a small, pivotal continuity gap that I never would have seen. When we amicably parted in January 2015 I was relieved (and so were they, most probably).


3. Consider other approaches.


By January 2015 Dodging Eros was clean, strong, experimental-concept prose as upbeat erotic social commentary about grown-ups in love. There was an ARC, and positive feedback from a couple of reviewers. Should I self-publish? became the question. I’d done it before with my first title, Seducing the Burks: Five Erotic Tales. That experience had been positive, stressful, and exhausting. Doing it again wasn’t my first choice, but I decided to solicit more reviews and generate cover art while submitting DE to other independent publishers.


Meanwhile, a novella contest for entries in an anthology inspired me to write about the politics of pleasure when the woman is the rich and powerful one in a hetero monogamous relationship. “This Mark Changes the Game” by C. X Brooks (my edgier writing persona) was the result. My idea was to use inclusion in the anthology for exposure to generate interest in my other work. The anthology was cancelled due to an insufficient number of entries, but “This Mark Changes the Game” grew into a series of four short stories and received offers from two different publishers.


4. Look beyond familiar niches for encouragement and inspiration.


The #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign validated my feelings as a non-Anglo reader and writer. Following the campaign on social media reminds me that a diverse population of children, teens, young and new adults who read will likely become grown-ups who read. Keeping that fact in mind helps me to focus on constantly moving forward with my writing. Every story may have already been told, but they haven’t all been told from every point of view.


Another public debate reignited with serendipitous timing for the launch of Dodging Eros: #OscarsSoWhite. This topic offered me opportunities to link this conversation about the insularity of the movie industry with similar patterns of Anglo-centric focus in mainstream contemporary fiction publishing. Making that connection expanded my debate about the politics of pleasure into deeper issues of the intersection of ethnicity, gender, and social class with traditions of institutionalized exclusion.


5. Live life fully.


The act of creating makes a person an artist; writing makes a writer. Being paid to write makes an author.


Spending time with family and friends, pursuing interesting hobbies, meditation, church, exercise, work, play, restful sleep, etc. automatically enrich every day. These activities also infuse an artist’s work with a variety of experiential references and offer opportunities for discoveries that inform an artist’s sensibilities to engage others with countless variations in details and perspectives.



Keep creating yourself. Doing so sustains and evolves dreams. It enriches life and strengthens the tapestry of the universe whether you get paid for it, or not, in fame, money or awards.




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Can You Receive A Compliment Without It Getting To Your Head?



a compliment (1)

Receiving compliments gracefully isn’t as easy as it should be for some people. How about you: are YOU ready for someone to give you a pat on the back? To be pushed to doing more? To have someone give you a supporting hand? To be picked up when you fall down?

Sure, we may think that’s what we want. But is it what we need to develop, to grow, and to get better?

If someone complimented you on every little improvement you made while learning a new skill, would you not start to feel a bit marginalized? That perhaps they didn’t really think you could do it? What about when you do something that seems pretty easy and everyone made it into a big deal?


Receiving Compliments When You Are Not Ready For It

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

Developing new skills is never free of trouble. We all know the level of foundation that must be built to get from being a novice, before reaching greatness. In the learning process, we all know when we are in that frustrating stage of not being quite as good – but we know what we have to do to get there.

It’s in these moments that receiving compliments on your every action could minimize your efforts. That’s because if they truly knew you, people would be holding out for when you make that big, defining leap. 

As we overcome hurdles in our learning and development, friends, family members, and colleagues will know when the time is right to provide encouragement. They know that when that moment comes, those words will have the right amount of impact on you.

Think back to when you were growing up, playing some elaborate game. Perhaps you spent hours creating this game: building a fort, putting together things that the rest of your characters in the play could use. You pushed through despite the trials and problems.

It would have served absolutely no purpose for someone to congratulate you on every step (and misstep) along the way.  You would have lost your flow as you worked through the problem, constantly being interrupted – all while you were still trying to figure it out and understand where you needed to go.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments


When Receiving Compliments Makes You Content with Present Achievements

You might never have finished if someone patted you on the back early in that moment, content in the knowledge that you “thought up” the idea and that was enough. If everyone was saying you did great simply for thinking up something new, would it have compelled you to stop?

Maybe. Perhaps you would have stopped with that compliment.

As a parent, you learn when to encourage your children. Usually, it’s not when they show up, and not when they do what kids around them are able to do as well. It’s when they push themselves to do more. When they pick themselves up and still lose, when they try something new for the first time, fall over and fail, not sure if they should do it again.

Those are the moments when kids should be receiving compliments – NOT when they have done the same thing over and over again, or when they didn’t try their best but won anyways.

Kids know this. They can feel it when people give false compliments or encouragement because they did something they’ve always done. But when it is something meaningful, something they have worked hard for, they know the encouragement will be there to help them.

Why You Are Not Receiving Compliments

The reason you might not be receiving compliments or encouragement when you want to is because you haven’t earned them or don’t deserve them yet.

Maybe your coaches, leaders, parents, or other people who support you know you are not ready for it. Perhaps they need to see you making that next big leap in your growth and development.

Those compliments might not come today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year. But look at those around you – the great people you have chosen to surround yourself with – and you’ll see that they are waiting to give you that push. They are waiting for you to make it happen.

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3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart




when your dreams are falling apart (1)

I truly believe that dreams must extend beyond wishes of self-improvement; that its goal should be to contribute to the world around you.

The heart is a fickle thing. Imagine how many amazing things wouldn’t have been accomplished if great minds simply stopped when they “didn’t feel like it”.

It’s human nature. I’m sure that during the course of over 300 bank rejections, Walt Disney had days when he felt like giving up. But he didn’t. He kept going. Why? It was because his dream went far beyond himself.

Here’s how YOU can keep going – even if it feels like your dreams are falling apart.


3 Ways to Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

1.) Remember The “Why”

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

Often times, I find that dreams extend far beyond the simple purpose of making one happy. For example, being a songwriter in and of itself does not make me feel happy and fulfilled. Imagine if my life’s work was to write songs that no one would ever hear. That doesn’t elicit any feelings of happiness or fulfillment (at least to me).

Seeing and hearing the healing effects that come from the songs I create for others to hear? Now you’re talking. Healing and helping others is the part of my dream that keeps it alive. It gives me purpose in this world that goes far beyond myself and my skills.

I’m reminded of the character Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Scrooge’s goal in life was to have money – and lots of it. He set aside love and relationships for that dream. The result of this life goal was a lonely, cold, bitter old man.

I won’t ruin the whole story for the very few of you that may not have heard it. In the end, Scrooge discovered that what brought him fulfillment and happiness were community and generosity.

So what is the “why” to your dream? How is your dream going to affect those around you? Get beyond yourself. As many have said, YOU are your biggest obstacle to success.


2.) Take Off The Rose-Colored Glasses

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

You know what I’m talking about. The “I’m going to make it big” and “I’m going to famous/rich/etc.” I hate to take a pointy realistic needle to your big ideas, but I’m doing it out of love. Here it is:

Your dream isn’t going to look exactly how you pictured it.

Take a minute to take that one in. Still here? Yes. Alive? Yes. Not Bleeding? No? Hurt a bit?

It’s OK. I know. I’ve been there. Dreams are vulnerable. We spend countless hours imagining what it would be like and how we will get there. But the truth is, in my experience, they have never turned out exactly how I have imagined. Why? We live in a world of people and circumstances that we can’t control.

Here is where the “why” comes in. The beautiful thing is that your works are a direct result of your heart’s intention…and what you put out into the world never comes back void. Here’s an example:

As a singer-songwriter, the common idea of making it big for my line of work is to have a hit song or perform in front of a sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden (I’m more inclined towards Red Rock Amphitheatre, but you get the picture).

Let’s say that I work and strive tirelessly to do everything I need to do to reach that goal. I release a song, I tour around the US, develop a large following, get on the radio, etc. Along the way, I hear stories of how this song has impacted the people who have heard it. Stories describing how it brought healing, encouragement, and hope.

To go further, what if I never even make it that far? What if circumstances happen and I can’t tour? What if everything “falls apart”? What if I end up playing at open mics for the rest of my life? What if it doesn’t happen in the next year? Two years?

Does that change the fact that my song helped heal and open the heart of a broken and depressed Vietnam Vet? Or how it helped encourage an author to keep going and writing? Or how my song started a conversation on how to look past the labels overshadowing soldiers and their families?

It’s all about your perspective of success, my friend. To me, because my “why” and my heart’s intention are to help people, those stories above are my version of success. It’s what keeps me going. If I get to Madison Square Garden (or Red Rocks), well that’s just icing on top of the cake.

Keep going on your dream. Make a plan, and in the words of .38 Special, “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” Roll with the punches and understand that even greater things can come when things don’t go according to your plan.


3.) Make Your Dream Your Job

Keep Going When Your Dream Falls Apart

No, I don’t mean quit your job and have no income while you work on your dream. That’s an entirely different article (and completely up to you). I’m talking about treating your dream like it is your job.

For example, if you completely failed at a presentation at work, would you just quit and not go the next day? No! You have a livelihood and an expectation to show up. So why quit on your dream at the first sign of failure?

Treat your dream like your job. Make a plan, show up every day, and understand that it may take a while to see any results. I know many songwriters who wrote hundreds of songs before they wrote a hit. However, they never would have reached it if they didn’t take that first step, made a commitment, and wrote 100 songs first.

Dreams don’t just happen. They take work. So go get started!

My best advice under this theme is check out the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It is by far the best resource I have discovered in my journey of living out my dream.

Here’s the deal. With every goal that I have set and achieved, I never sat at the end and thought to myself, “man, look at what I did”. Believe it or not, I was more overwhelmed with the thoughts of the journey that I had to take to get there – the good and the bad.

I would admire and laugh at the unexpected things that came. I would smile and enjoy the character it built, the person that I became in the process. In the end, the best thing about dreams and goals isn’t their achievement, but the journey that you take to get there.

Never forget that the dream in your heart was put there for a reason. You were made to make an impact on this world.

Enjoy the journey and never, ever give up. Keep going.

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