I’ve been writing little posts in this blog for over four years and it’s about time I write another blog progress report. When I peek back at my very first entries, I’m amazed by how much I’ve grown as a writer and also by how much more I need to learn. So tonight, I’m sweeping away the old goals, some I’ve accomplished, others still pending, and update my new writing hopes and dreams.

In 2012 I wrote a post comparing a rejection for a manuscript to being critiqued by Jennifer Lopez on American Idol. Some contestants bomb out during the audition process, believing they can sing, when in reality they can’t. Other hopefuls can carry a tune, but don’t have that “wow” factor. At last, there are those who sing beautifully and have the stage presence to keep the audience, and judges, enthralled. Some go far, but there is only one winner, one American Idol.

At the time, I wondered which category I fit. I spent many days and nights wondering if I’d bomb out, or just didn’t have the “wow” factor, or if I could write well enough to get an agent or editor’s interest.

As we approach the last year of American Idol, I can happily write that I’ve finally received a “golden ticket” to Hollywood (Publisher Land) when Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary offered to represent my stories, but the show’s not over yet. Not even close.

Now, the stress to perform and “not crack” under pressure is greater than ever. The rejection becomes more personal (or it feels that way) and when it does come, it’s not one rejection at a time through an email or letter, it comes via your agent in a report with notes from an array of editors describing why they’ve rejected your story, why you’ve failed. And similar to American Idol, it feels as though the whole world is watching, although in reality it’s just your agent. But still.

This process is not for the faint of heart. One thing I’ve observed from American Idol contestants is how they “get in their own heads” and lose perspective. Over and over, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr., emphasize to sing the words from their hearts as though they believe and feel what they’re singing about. This is difficult to do with a plethora of other dynamics to juggle. It’s easy to overthink the performance, to lose touch with the audience.

This happens when you’re writing to impress an editor or your agent instead of writing for the unmitigated joy of moving words around a page, like rearranging furnishings in a favorite room until your eye sees that everything is perfect. The words can become a burden that won’t cooperate with your vision, and ultimately, the manuscript, the story, is overthought and lost.

The good news is that Jennifer Lopez (your agent) sees your potential and you’re still in the running for the grand prize. So presently, with the spotlight flashing on the stage, the stakes high, my new writing goal is to take a deep breath, cross my fingers, and sing … I mean, write my heart out.