When hearing No is a good thing

First my big news...I'm writing a second book! You may have already heard, I mentioned it last fall as I ended my first book tour. More details to follow, but suffice it to say that I'm more than halfway through, and am in love with it.

What does this have to do with the word No?

I had a bad work review in 2003.

Fellow A-students out there will understand how that can still haunt me years later. It was too embarrassing and hurtful to my tender striving-for-gold-stars self.

Worse, the review said that I was a bad writer.

I'm nervous to even share it now; that maybe it is true and I've been fooling myself.

When I asked my boss, she nodded her head and said that I should take a writing course, or learn from fellow employees. If I didn't improve, I would never get a promotion.

The tears welled. I had prided myself on not crying in the office, but I couldn't help it. I reached for a tissue, and excused myself as soon as possible to collect what was left of my self esteem and hide in the bathroom.

I moped for weeks about it, as if a dark secret was unearthed. Did everyone else know that I was a bad writer too? Who was I if I wasn't a writer?

And that's what my strong reaction was about. It took a month for me to realize.

Her words rocked the foundation that I had built my life on. I AM a writer.

Every progress report since kindergarten said two things: that I was some form of pleasant -- meaning I smiled, followed the rules, and didn't bother anyone -- and that I was a good writer. In college, my circle of friends were writers. I was an editor of the literary magazine. I didn't contribute mind you, but I immersed myself in that world.

It took being told that I wasn't good at something to know I wanted it.

The bad review didn't cause me to write a book; that took a few more years. It made me more aware of my sense of self, and the kinds of people and activities I wanted in my life. Writing is and was vital to who I am. 2003 was when I started owning that.

Have you heard No recently?

Did it make you question what you were doing, and why?

There's an opportunity underneath the confusion, embarrassment, fear or frustration. To reach it, you probably need to feel all of those feelings first. Let yourself, and as you do ask yourself why you are reacting so strongly. If it wasn't important, you might have shrugged off the No, or moved on in another direction by now.

Why is this time different? And then, when you're ready...

What do you want to do about it?