Managing Expectations

Hello everyone,

Hope you all had a great weekend. I know I did. Stretches of productivity, but also got to catch up on some reading, tv and video games. The best of both worlds.

I’m still stalled on working on my second book at the moment, but I am nearly ready to re-submit my Master’s Paper to the Howard Journal of Communications. Hopefully it will be published. I am also working on creating my own social media business, which you’ll hear more about in by the end of September.

Looking ahead to september reminded me of an event I tried out for, Toronto Men’s Fashion Week (TOMS). I did some modelling training in my final year of high school, but I never continued with it since I was going to be moving out of town to go to the University of Ottawa, and it would have been impossible to work with a Toronto agency from 5 hours away. My best friend was going to the audition for TOMS and his mom was kind enough to send an invite to me as well. The audition was going to take place on a friday night, so we all planned to meet up afterwards for drinks.

I left for the audition straight from work, clean cut and dressed in ironed and form-fitting clothes. I tried to get back into modelling when I moved back to Brampton but I was rejected by many agencies for being too tall or for having a “similar look” to a lot of other models on their rosters. I saw this audition as my way to possibly get back into modelling. I wasn’t deluding myself of having a career as a supermodel, but I figured that I could aim to secure a part-time job that could bring in some much needed money.

The audition was held in a lounge that had been reserved for the event. There was a desk set up where patrons would normally pay cover. After registering there, I made my way down a set of stairs to the main lounge area. Wooden floors and leather chairs were set up in the center. All around the central area, there were different stations. One for physical inspection of candidates, where two women met and greeted each person one by one. The next was an area with a box light set up, where the photographer guided each model through a set of poses. The final station was the one for measurements.

I was nervous at first, but other people in the waiting area broke the ice. By the time I was called up, I felt loose again. I got positive feedback on my body and my runway walk. So did my friend. I walked out of there thinking that we were both going to be accepted.

The generic rejection email arrived two weeks later.

I am used to generic rejection letters e.g. “we regret to inform you…” from my pursuit of publication, but I wasn’t used to receiving one after getting nothing but positive feedback. I realized that maybe I was being naive. It wouldn’t make sense for the judge to list all the things she didn’t like when she sees someone in person. That would only serve to make them miserable for the rest of the audition, starting a self-fulfilling cycle. Focusing on positives was a tactful move. I let go of my pride and figured this out about ten minutes before I started writing this post.

Once I got the email I did what I always do when I feel down, called my mom. Yes, I am that type of person. I wasn’t in tears but I was disappointed. I began to worry that maybe my stomach wasn’t toned enough. I do stay in pretty good shape but I was worried that my lack of an eight pack was what led to my rejection. My mom was able to talk sense in me, telling me not to think about it too much. Modelling shows and agencies always want something very specific: a specific height, body type, skin tone etc. Not fitting the bill is not always a sign of unattractiveness or inadequacy.

That was an important lesson for me, and one that I think applies to many walks of life. It applies to my attempts to get published: my book may be good but it isn’t what agents are looking for. You may be a good candidate for a job but you may not be exactly what the employer had in mind. Sometimes they might make an exception if you stand out enough. Sometimes an ideal, or the closest thing to it, is the only option for some people.

I always try to put a positive spin on failures. I don’t just follow this idea because I read it in a book, I follow it because it is the only option that makes sense. What is the alternative? Moping, accepting defeat and giving up. We’re better than that.

Running on the Spot

Hello everyone,

Wanted to share some brief thoughts with you tonight. Been out of town for the weekend, mostly because I was visiting my mom.

The weekend was great but my mom did share some advice with me, which ultimately made me realize I was getting complacent. Below is a text she sent me.

“I’ve been thinking about you and your next steps. I think you have worked extremely hard to give yourself a huge advantage to date! Congratulations your edge is really awesome and obvious. I’m very proud of you.

Here is my concern: It is very easy to squander an edge! I know that first hand. Don’t want this to happen to you.

Think smart son.

Don’t think about short term pleasure- what immediately appeases the senses. Think about the long term picture. Perhaps what you may need to endure for a short time to live in a state of bliss down the road. You have many years ahead of you. Many!

You have to turn things up now to avoid everyone who did the average catching up to you. How unfortunate that would be for you. Literally to run ahead and then jog on the spot and wait to get to the end zone with everyone else.

Your focus on personal sacrifice has diminished. The person who sacrificed to finish his degree in three years for a chance at a better future has shifted gears to seeking the things that give immediate gratification. Your focus is now on what you enjoy.

That’s the ultimate goal son but few can realistically achieve it at 24. Get back on the treadmill. Find back your fight. You ended the race prematurely. Get back in the game! Go for what you deserve with all you have in you. Don’t cheat yourself now. You have worked too hard. Keep up the fight- you are too close to finding gold to shut down the machinery! Don’t make that classic mistake son. Please.

Open up yourself to new horizons, new opportunities and think about ways to enjoy those- even if that’s over time. Move away from thinking of what you enjoy and hoping to make opportunities out o them. The former is more practical as as you grow the things you enjoy change and you may find you are exactly where you are meant to be. Secure a future for yourself! There is a pleasure in that.

I know you are not religious but you believe in some higher power. So do I. The fact that you are so qualified and not landing your ideal jobs may be a chance to rethink your direction. Whatever that may be… I don’t know what your path will entail and I won’t make suggestions unless asked. However, I recommend  you seek counsel. And I further recommend you only seek counsel from individuals who have accomplished sufficient to advise you or those whom you are truly confident want more for you than they want even for themselves. If you get anything else wrong in this life- don’t get the foregoing wrong.”

I initially took these words the wrong way, thinking I was being called lazy. However, my mom called me to let me know that my work ethic wasn’t the issue. When she says “seeking comfort over pleasure” she means that I was shutting myself in from good opportunities. I had a bad experience as a teaching assistant, and I have actively avoided teaching since. However, teaching could be a rewarding and career rejuvenating experience. As my mom said, one failure or bad experience shouldn’t stop me from pursuing something. I have failed to get published numerous times but I kept trying. I have tried to learn guitar before, I quit, but now I am continuing again. There are many other opportunities or suggestions my mom has given me that I was quick to shut down, not due to laziness, but because I didn’t want to leave my comfort zone. I shut out opportunities and I fear that I am becoming more average day by day. It seems that I rebelled against every opportunity given to me as a child, sports, instruments etc.

Now I am just yet another 24 year old with nothing to show for my academic achievements or my work ethic. I disappear into the crowd and I could end up being another person who had potential, but squandered it. This weekend I realized that things might not just work out soon enough. Don’t put faith in God, the universe or whatever you believe in. Have faith in yourself and apply yourself. I haven’t been lazy but I haven’t been taking advantage of opportunities either. I hope this motivates at least one other person to take a harder look at themselves and get one step closer to being the best they can be.

 

How I Started Writing

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I’m not a bestselling author, or even a selling author. However, I often hear people say they want to write a book but don’t know how to. As someone who’s book has yet to be accepted by a literary agent, I don’t want to claim to be an expert, but I can honestly say that my writing has improved greatly since I started writing creatively when I was eleven. That isn’t saying much, but my point is that skill comes with practice.

I once submitted the first ten pages of my book to an online “boot camp” hosted by Writer’s Digest. For a $200 fee, a literary agent would review the first ten pages of your book and provide personalized feedback. After one generic rejection letter after another e.g. “Than you for sending us your query but it isn’t right for us”, I was very eager to get real feedback on my writing. One of the biggest criticisms I received was that my story was mostly dialogue and narrative, there was little done in the way of painting a scene and building a world. Friends, and even some agents who have read it since now say that the imagery and the world building is one of the things that stood out most about the book. That is not to say that I am spellbinding, but it is a clear indicator of improvement.

When I was in grade five, an English teacher suggested that I should write a book. My mom agreed and I wrote my first novella in grade eight. It was a pretty horrible piece called Camp Escapade that only my mom and another English teacher read. However, it sparked my interest in writing and led me to pursue writing as a career. Camp Escapade also gave me early experience with the process of querying agents and trying to promote myself. I went through a period where I continuously rewrote Camp Escapade. There were long periods where I didn’t write at all since I didn’t value consistent creative output at the time.

When I was in grade eleven I started writing again, using my history classes as inspiration for a story of alien slavery. I wrote my first draft of Elseworld by the time I graduated and had the naïve idea that I would be published by the time I graduated university. During this stage, I started to realize how bleak the prospect of getting published was. I started to look up publishing statistics, and realized that it was almost a pipe dream. Yet I didn’t want to quite.

The most recent draft of Elseworld, which I finished last year, is far superior to the first.  It taught me what hard work and patience could lead to. I may have had an air of entitlement concerning my first work -maybe some of it still lingers- but I was now committed to become published. I no longer cared if it didn’t happen with my preset timeline. I always wanted to set a goal for myself but I realized that I didn’t want to quit if my goal didn’t materialize.