Pretty much everything I’ve ever done right, I’ve never done right on the first try. I started thinking about this tonight as I attempted my first homemade baked stuffed manicotti. It started out okay, but as soon as I started spooning the cheese mixture into the manicotti shell, all hell broke loose. It was a complete disaster, with cheese coming out of both ends faster than I could fill it. Perhaps I should have read the directions in full, and piped it in with a frosting bag, instead of a spoon.
I started thinking about how many times I’d failed. How many times I’d fallen. My driver’s license test. I remember being super excited to leave school, knowing I’d come back as a licensed driver. I told all my friends. I told my teachers. When I came back to school, it was lunchtime. I walked into the cafeteria to see all of my friends standing in a circle. They’d started clapping when they saw me. Um…that was embarrassing. I didn’t pass. Something about not looking behind me when I went to make the 3-point turn. The instructor made me get out of the car and drove back to the registry himself. Not cool.
A few weeks later I took the test again. I mastered that 3-point turn, and got my license, the 2nd time around.
And then there was the time I was working for a financial institution. I wanted to become a Registered Representative and go for my Series 6 and 63 licenses. I studied like crazy. I knew the terms. I knew my stuff.
The morning of the test, I told my coworkers. My boss was so proud of me. He’d already ordered a cake. He’d already promoted me effective that day. THIS DAY! I headed out to take the test with absolute confidence. Only thing is…I didn’t pass. I missed by 2 points. Two points!
That was a long & shameful walk down the hall to my office. That Congratulations, We Knew You Could Do It cake…mocked me. I remember how well my boss handled it. He said everyone has an off day. He knew I’d been studying. He knew I’d pass the 2nd time around. I took that test again 10 days later and passed with 9 points to spare.
But the biggest challenge was in getting my manuscript turned into a book. I’d done all the right things. I’d done the query letter, sent it out to about 100 literary agents. I needed to get this story published because I needed women to know they can survive abuse. They can move on. They can have productive lives, and make a difference. They don’t have to end up a statistic.
I finally heard back from K. O’Donnell, a literary agent in New York. I was over the moon excited. She wanted to represent me. I submitted my entire manuscript to her and she started shopping for a publisher. I couldn’t believe I would be a published author. I couldn’t believe my story of abuse was going to be in print. I kept thinking about how many women could be spared, if perhaps they read my book. She sent me a letter with book tours and dates. I’d be at Barnes & Noble, Borders Books, and more doing book signings. It was all so amazing.
And then a few weeks later, I saw my book on Amazon. But it wasn’t my name as the author. It was my literary agent. She’d stolen my book. I felt like I’d been raped and abused all over again.
I remember crying uncontrollably. I remember not being able to catch my breath. My story was about abuse. Recounting horrific physical, emotional and sexual abuse. And she stole it from me. I felt defeated.
But I didn’t give up. I’d been down before. I’d failed before. I wasn’t going to give in.
After months of legal battles back and forth to get my copyright back, to get my product back, the story was mine. Means of Escape was once again mine.
I’ve learned this – anything worth anything is worth trying for. It’s worth fighting for. Anything of importance, whether it’s a relationship, a career, a driving test or manuscript – if it means something to you, you can’t give up. You have to rise to the challenge. You must believe in yourself. You must overcome.
So, while my baked stuffed manicotti was not pretty, it sure was delicious. As with many other things in my life, it’s always better, the 2nd time around.