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What it means to “put yourself out there”


I finally did it.

It took a while, but I did it: I submitted another book proposal. (And no, it’s not for anything on this list.)

The past six months have been a big deal on this front—I’ve actually submitted two proposals, one of which has been rejected and the other I won’t know about for a while yet. I say this is a big deal because I find proposal writing to be the hardest part of writing a book (aside from, y’know, writing the book).

Proposal writing forces you to really think about whether or not you’re the right person to write a particular book, after all. I’ve had a number of ideas that are actually really good, but as I’ve tried to outline them, I realized I’m not the guy to write about them. (This is why I tend to not write about sports, in case you’re curious.) But there’s something else about proposals that scares me: it’s the “putting yourself out there” factor.

Remember that scene in Back to the Future where Marty and his dad are in the cafeteria and he learns that George wrote “stories—science fiction stories, about aliens, coming down to earth, from other planets”?[1. Admit it: you can hear Crispin Glover’s bizarre delivery as you read that.] When Marty asks if he can read them, George balks, saying, “What if they think they’re no good—I just don’t think I can take that kind of rejection.”

Every single time I send out a proposal, I have a conversation like that in my head:

  • What if they don’t like it?
  • What if they think I’m no good?
  • What if they like it but think I’m the wrong person to write it?

What if, what if, what if… 

It’s dumb, I know. I should have more confidence. I mean, I’ve been around the block a few times now. I’ve actually had books published. Yet, it still happens. And I’m not sure the “what ifs” ever really go away.

But this is what it means to put yourself out there: it means to confront the “what ifs” head on. It means saying yes to the possibility that someone might not like my idea, or may not think I’m the guy to write what I’m planning to write. But it also means confronting the fear that can paralyze me from doing something really cool. And it means there’s the possibility a publisher might say yes.

Aspiring writers, don’t let the “what ifs” prevent you from doing something you love. The worst thing a publisher can say to you is “no.” “No” isn’t the end of the world, and it’s not a confirmation that the “what ifs” were right. If you really love writing, if you think you have something of value to say, the best thing you can do is take the risk and put yourself out there. Because even though you’ll probably be told no (a lot), you might eventually get a yes.

And wouldn’t that be something?

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