Friday, September 18, 2009


A few weeks ago I peered through our window and saw a large bird resting on our fence. At first I thought it was an owl, but upon further investigation I realized it was a baby hawk. Apparently no one told him it was a windy day, too windy to attempt a first day of flight school. I guess crying for mom seemed the best way to handle the situation, unless you were the poor human who had to listen to all that screeching.

With no momma around to assist, he flapped his wings as little as possible so as not to fall off of the fence. A few times a big gust came along while he was adjusting himself, and he was forced to use his giant wings to make a small circle in the yard then back to the fence again. Apparently his wings did not come with instructions. For two hours he carefully and rather awkwardly flew short distances, always coming back to the fence.

What is it about firsts that sparks exhilaration and trepidation? I think back to the first time I submitted an article to a magazine seven years ago. My nerves were jumping at the thought of an editor actually reading something I wrote. I imagined her grabbing a red pen and cackling while marking an enormous F like the teacher in A Christmas Story. Part of me wanted to pull the manuscript out of the mail bin, but it was too late.

Several weeks later I had another first—my first rejection letter. So I kept it to put in a frame and carefully read the editor’s feedback. I never would have received her encouraging, helpful notes had I not sent in a manuscript. Seeing that rejection letter, or any other, is not a reminder of failure. It’s a sort of building block that will help construct my career.

Starting off in a creative field is kind of like having wings, knowing what they were made for, but falling off the fence a few times before getting the hang of it. If you’re wondering what it would be like to do something you’re passionate about, get out there and give it a try. You can’t let a fear of failure keep you from spreading your wings if you hope to fly.

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