This post is long overdue, but after a friend asked me for some perspective, I realized how it is still relevant, timely, and important to share.
“When you published your first book, did you people treat you differently? Did anyone act differently toward you?”
Maybe a little. What happened most is my own embarrassment. When Will McGill and the Magic Hat first came out in November of 2015 I was overjoyed. The feeling that I had accomplished a lifelong dream, that my words would forever be in this neat, beautiful little package with my name on the front, was one I won’t forget. It was something I had worked on for years. Something I had been so excited to complete. When it came time to share it with the world, I was more than happy to share it with people who I didn’t know. But, when it came to sharing it with those closest to me, especially in person, I shied away. In fact, it is something I still need to make a conscious effort not to shy away from now.
Why would I hesitate to share something that brought me such joy? The first response in my brain (and in some conversations through not many) was that because I had self-published, anyone could do it. It’s true, anyone can write a book. Anyone can format it, edit it, and share it with the world. This simple fact led me to devalue what I had done. It wasn’t special. It wasn’t important.
The other thought was, I shouldn’t brag. As an educator my first reaction has never been to publicize myself, to shout about my greatness from the rooftops, or quite frankly to call attention to myself at all. In the classroom, I deflect the praise to my students. After all, it is the kids who actually do the great projects, I just dream up the crazy things.
So there I was, with one of the things I was most proud of accomplishing in my life (outside of having my family) and I would barely share it with anyone. Sure I would post it on social media, but I rarely spoke about it to other adults. It all changed that spring. I was at a one-day educational conference and some friends pushed me to put a session on the board for the open choice section of the afternoon. That session would be about writing and publishing a book, MY BOOK.
There were some fun parts of the session, including one where I was throwing books out like Oprah. “You get a book, and you get a book, and you get a book.” But, the most meaningful part, the part that has stuck with me most, wasn’t something I said, but a comment by someone else, unfortunately, I cannot remember who it was. I was continuing my self-deprecating description of writing a book when I told the people in the room that ANYONE could do this, it isn’t special. After repeating that several times this gentleman said:
“Yes anyone COULD do it, but what makes it special is that you DID do it.”
Those words still echo in my head anytime I am hesitant to share things that I have done. Whether your thing is a book, an article, a blog post, an image or picture you created, presenting on a topic, or anything else that you do, remember that it is special not because it COULDN’T be done, but because YOU DID IT. Give yourself permission to accept that you have accomplished something. Celebrate it. Share it. If you find that there are people who aren’t happy for you, they don’t deserve to bask in your sunshine. Do not allow others to throw shade on your joy, your celebration of accomplishment. Whether it be from jealousy or some other misplaced personal issue, their problems are not with your accomplishment, they are with you.
I always welcome feedback, pushback, and I value where I can learn from the questions of others. But looking to tear others down for the sake of diminishing what they have accomplished? I will no longer accept that as the norm. Surround yourself with those who will question you, but who will also share in your joy. As I approach the publication of my 3rd book and my first non-fiction teaching book, I am absolutely reminded that there will be people whose only joy is in the shadows the can cast upon the world. I won’t allow myself to stay in those shadows, nor will I go any longer without sharing that message with others. If you have accomplished great things, or small things with great meaning, own it. Own your successes with the intensity and vigor they deserve.