Almost 10 years ago, I self published three booklets for breast cancer survivors just after having become one – a breast cancer survivor. They were inspired by that transition from patient to survivor, how it felt and how people and time made it feel better. I wanted to share what I had learned. The experience demanded it of me as I had received a gift many people do not – survivorship. What I wrote came from my subconscious, from my soul. The booklets were poetry and in one way or another, they touched almost every person who read them, including myself.
Through the process, I learned first and foremost, don’t let rejection get you down. When I finished writing and illustrating these 3 little gems, I had the dream to have them published as art books. I still do. But the first few publishers told me they wouldn’t make it, that they just didn’t fit as art book material. I was more than a little bit devastated.
That was when I decided to self publish. But, I had a limited budget so I compromised on how artsy they could be. I settled for a beautiful paperback version with black and white illustrations. They were not exactly what I wanted but they were what I could afford and manage at that moment. With the help of family and friends and my retirement account, I managed to send more than 5000 sets of the I Wish I Knew …. series to women in treatment through care centers all over the US and some countries abroad. I even had them translated into Spanish and sent another 2500 to Puerto Rico, Mexico and Spain.
Last year one of my yoga clients, founder of AwesOm Life, helped me publish another 2000 with my artwork in color as the cover. They were even more beautiful closer to my dream book and were just as well received almost 8 years after I first sent them out.
In fact, people still ask for them. So, this year, I decided to e-publish since that fit my budget of no dollars and a lot of help from my friends. I thought I could publish them as art books but, again, I needed to compromise. The powerful words are there, ready to hold the hand of another 5000 or more women in cancer treatment and their family and friends. But the drawings are only on the covers.
The point is, even though I was rejected with my first idea, I held onto the dream. No, I didn’t get the art book coffee table version that you buy at Border’s bookstore. Instead, I was able to help a bunch of people who needed a hand to hold in a moment of crisis. I think I got the better deal.
Second, I learned to be flexible. Back to the art book analogy, had I held onto that need for a hard cover, glossy paged hip and trendy book, I may have lost my momentum in seeking a publisher who would respect me and honor what I wanted. I may have lost my drive and the real purpose of the books: to help people with my experience, to bring something good from all that pain and suffering and to acknowledge all the people who helped me along the way. I compromised to realize my goal. It took more than a few long discussions with myself in the mirror and a few long held twists in my yoga practice to get there. But I finally acknowledged that for then, and for now, less was more. Even when it came to e-publishing. I thought I could at least keep the minimal illustrations that I had in the original booklets. But no, I had to let those go too. And regardless, the words themselves are powerful and meaningful and importantly helpful. I became flexible with what I needed to get the message out.
Thirdly, I learned to surround myself with people who love me and believe in me and encourage me to follow my dream. Think about doing the same. They don’t have to agree with you. But don’t allow people to block you. I had one friend who read my work and told me he thought it sucked. I stopped writing for almost a year. I cannot believe I gave him that power over me. Now, I try to be tougher and I also limit to whom I listen and from whom I ask advice. Not that I don’t want constructive criticism. I do. But “that sucks” is not constructive. Own your power to be who you are and realize yes, some people will think you “suck” but you don’t have to care. At least not so much. I like to remind myself that if everyone likes my work, what sort of distinction do I have? I mean, not everyone even likes Picasso, right?
And while learning those three lessons, I have been able to rock my world and the world of a more than a few other people. And I have been able to publish three small yet powerful booklets about all the things I wish I knew while still holding onto my dream. Perhaps at 20 years cancer free, I will have my art book coffee table version and meet Oprah. Thank God, I may have the extra 10 years to flex around it.
(now available on Amazon for Kindle reader at http://www.amazon.com/Wish-Knew-breast-cancer-survivor-ebook/dp/B00KEYW00A)