I think every outstanding person is also a little insane.
Every groundbreaking scientist. Self-made entrepreneur. Record-shattering athlete.
Every and any person that creates art. The writers. The musicians. The painters.
Every and any person that relentlessly serves a greater cause. The healers. The activists. The teachers.
Every instance of true greatness—of innovative, fantastic fortitude—derives from SOME kind of crazy.
A little pinch of loony. Or perhaps a big, heaping tablespoon of it.
Enough to make some magic out of what almost everyone else told them was muck.
Enough to believe in themselves.
Even if no one else does.
* * *
There’s a scene in On Writing by Stephen King where he describes a big stack of rejection letters that he stuck into the wall on a nail in his bedroom as a kid.
A young King would submit a draft to magazines and newspapers that published short stories, wait weeks and months for a reply, only to receive another rejection letter. He’d then stick each one of the letters, piled on top of one another, into a nail in his bedroom wall.
An early, poetic and semi-graphic representation of “Haterz r the motivatorz.”
I remember reading that story and thinking, “Damn, that dude’s a little crazy.”
(Funny how THAT is what made me think Stephen King is a little crazy, and not like, I don’t know, The Shining? Pet Semetary?)
It wouldn’t take long though before I realized how much of that nail-in-the-wall kind of crazy I had in myself as well. Or how much of it exists inside every ambitious person.
Every dreamer and fighter.
Everyone who refuses to give up on themselves.
* * *
It’s something inside of you.
A spark. A fire. A really hungry, arrogant will to do something important in this life.
It’s every person who fights like hell for their purpose. Who knows in their gut that they have what it takes, despite all odds. They take chances. They swallow rejection. They push forward, no matter what.
And it’s not just the King of Horror, either.
I’ve read all the stories of rejection before mainstream success.
Record labels turning down The Beatles and Madonna. Investors thinking Steve Jobs was a crock. Television executives scoffing at Seinfeld. Don’t even get me STARTED on all the publishers that hated Harry Potter, my adolescent gateway drug into fiction.
While those examples of the believe-in-yourself-DNA are extreme, they aren’t the only ones.
There are examples all around. Maybe even in you as well.
* * *
It’s a young musician playing to a crowd of fifteen people in a dive bar with the same vigor as a sold-out show in Madison Square Garden.
It’s a single mom taking night classes to become a nurse and acing her tests, Even though her ex-husband said she wasn’t bright enough. Even though she’s exhausted. She doesn’t let up.
It’s a benchwarmer up at 7 a.m. running drills. A C+ student making flashcards to crush a midterm that not even their teacher believes they’ll pass. A small business owner carrying boxes of products to craft fairs every Sunday, even though their Dad thinks art isn’t a real job.
All of these people have that special brand of crazy that allows you to deny the deniers, and keep going.
* * *
I too have fought similar battles.
When I started my career, I was young.
Like, not old enough to have a glass of champagne at the corporate happy hour young.
Being on that path so early meant encountering a lot of hesitancy and dismissiveness about my competency. I’ve had people not take me seriously on countless occasions in my professional life.
I’m also a bubbly blonde woman who pulls over on the side of the road to pick up turtles and carry them to safety, so I’m not exactly a shining example of the traditional Manhattan media executive.
Not only that, but I work in a technology role. I’ve actually walked into offices in New York City and had senior professionals say to my face that they don’t believe in the value of my job.
Still, oddly and perhaps ignorantly, I felt inclined to prove them wrong, win them over, and move forward.
And I did.
This may sound crass, but I don’t really care if people believe in me or not.
I’ve had thousands of internet trolls simultaneously attack me in the comments section of the Huffpost. I’ve been turned down for jobs. I’ve been insulted without basis. I’ve been on the wrong side of superficial judgments.
Those experiences felt heavy in the moment but ultimately I came to realize it’s just noise.
If someone doesn’t know me, I could care less what opinion they conjure up about me. If they do know me and we have a relationship, I care about their opinion, but ultimately, it won’t deter me from moving forward.
The things I want to do are too important to me. And I’m sure they are to you too.
Your dreams can’t be conditional.
They can’t be constantly influenced by the opinions of others or they will crumble and break.
Because people will reject and belittle the goals you have for yourself.
They’ll try to change you. They’ll try to control you. They’ll try to make you think you aren’t good enough.
You ARE good enough.
Today or tomorrow. Next month or next year.
You’ll get there if you believe you can.
You may not be ready at times for every dream. You may still need to grow. You may still need to improve.
And that’s okay too.
Accepting that you need to get better is NOT a lack of belief in yourself. It means believing in yourself SO much that you’re willing to keep investing in your own potential.
You know you can keep going, and that where you’re going is worth the work.
Writing is perhaps my most vehement example of this craziness to date.
I’ve wanted to write books since I first picked one up. But becoming a published author isn’t exactly the kind of dream you achieve easily, especially not when you have no academic training, no prospects, and no connections in the publishing world.
But, remember, I’m a lunatic. So I still believe I can do it.
I’ve logged hundreds of thousands of words. Spent countless hours and days writing, sketching characters and stories and plots. Stacked up piles of books about writing and publishing.
I’ve written several versions of the same completed manuscript and three other semi-completed manuscripts.
I wrote a book proposal after reading two books on how the hell to write a book proposal.
At one point I sent chapters and excerpts to dozens of agents. I received about that many rejections—that is, when they’d respond at all.
I didn’t have a nail in the wall, just a google doc where I’d mark their prospect as “no go” and watch the conditional formatting turn the name to a defeated shade of red.
Then I’d take a breath and keep on going. Keep editing. Keep improving. Keep searching for representation. Keep trying.
Like a crazy person—the only kind of person who can have so many people say “NO THANKS” and still keep going.
But if I gave up there, I’d have never met my current editor and be on the path I am now.
And maybe one day I’ll be able to say, “If I gave up there, I’d never have published a book.”
Just like if I’d have let certain people or failed opportunities deter me earlier in my professional career, I’d never be where I am now.
Because that’s the simplest reality.
You have to keep going.
Keep that fire in your belly and forge forward.
If you let rejection and denial convince you to stop trying, you’ll never get there.
The rest of us never get to heal from your art or change from your science. We stand still instead of moving forward.
We all need more. From each other, and from ourselves.
The world needs you to keep going. Keep fighting for your dreams. Keep believing in yourself against all odds.
The world needs your heart.
Your story. Your brain. Your talent.
The world needs your crazy.