Today, my book proposal goes to the editorial board at St. Martin’s Press, which means that a group of publishing experts who have read what I wrote will hash out whether it resonates with them enough to commit to buying my book. This is not the first time I have perched, white-knuckled, on the edge of my seat, knowing my book was going to editorial boards. I have been through this process many times.
After quitting my job as a doctor almost exactly two years ago, I spent a year writing a memoir about my life as a gynecologist, spiritual seeker, mother, and woman. I threw my heart into my writing and worked my ass off. Three times, I scrapped the whole darn thing, opened a fresh Word document, and started over. Finally, after a million revisions, I felt it was ready to be read by the world. After receiving a gazillion rejection letters from literary agents, Barbara Poelle called me and said, “I would get in a monkey knife fight to represent this book.” So I call her Monkey Barbara, and I love her to pieces.
Bless her heart, Monkey Barbara spent an entire year shopping my book. Time after time, an editor would read it, love it, and take it to editorial boards, in an attempt to sell the idea to the powers that be. But time after time, the book got rejected at the top of the heap, often by marketing people who appreciated the writing but didn’t know how to sell it. My book doesn’t fit in anybody's box. It’s part doctor memoir, but unlike most doctor memoirs, I take my white coat off, step off the pedestal, and reveal much about my life as both doctor and patient, from both sides of the stirrups. So it doesn’t fit neatly into the doctor memoir box, the way Dr. Atul Gawande’s books do.
The book also trends towards being a balls-to-the-wall spiritual journey, along the lines of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, as I jump off the proverbial cliff and paddle around until I find the lavender-scented river that brings me home. But it’s too clinical to quite fit into the spiritual journey box. It wanders into Girlfriend’s Guides too, but stops at being prescriptive. So where does my book fit into the library of Congress? Under what category does it fit neatly? I have no clue, and apparently, neither did twenty publishing houses.
After a year of shopping the book, Monkey Barbara called to ask if I would be willing to talk to a bevy of editors who wanted me to rewrite the book as a standard doctor memoir- to remove a bunch of the personal mumbo jumbo, don my white coat, and climb into a box. I decided I didn’t want to do this. I chose to hang onto my integrity and the book, the way I wrote it, in hopes that it will one day be read by many. I told her that the book never wanted to be just a doctor memoir. So the two of us, weeping over glasses of wine, shelved my book a few months back.
I was tempted to wallow. I had given up my financial security and a year of my life to write a book everyone loved but no one would ever read. Feelings of failure flooded in. But, in spite of the disappointment, I found comfort in my belief that the Universe has a plan for our lives, and who are we to question it? If some publishing house had paid me six figures for my book last summer, I might have spent the year on a whirlwind book tour, instead of founding Owning Pink, which is clearly my life’s work and what I’m meant to be doing. I might not have gone back to practicing gynecology, which I love. I might never have moved to Marin County, where I found my tribe. The rejection of my book triggered a cascade of events that have opened my life to great joy. How can you call that failure? I choose to see it as part of the Master Plan.
So, today, as this group of editors and other powerful people at St. Martin’s Press discuss whether they will publish my next book, I’m tempted to pray that they will say yes. An acceptance would be damn good, right about now. “Please, God, open their hearts and let them see that I want to empower women to understand, honor, and love their bodies. Help them find it in their hearts to bid on my book.”
But no. That doesn’t feel right to me. Who am I to know whether the publication of this book is part of the Master Plan? How arrogant would I be if I suggested to God that I know best what will make me happy? Sure, I could apply the tenets of The Secret. I could visualize the published cover of my book, see myself at a book signing, imagine myself discussing my book on Oprah. My mind- and my will- are very strong, so chances are, the Law of Attraction would manifest those wishes. But who am I to know that those outcomes would be good for me and my family? Who am I to choose the outcome of my life?
So instead, I offer up this prayer. “God, grant me inner peace and the strength to surrender to the Universe. Release me from any attachment to particular outcomes and fill my heart with love and joy.” What else really matters in life?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not free from desire. I have big dreams, baby. I hope to publish a whole series of books. I dream of opening a retreat center for women, where they can Own Pink together and find safety, love, and community. I fantasize about having the opportunity to spread my message of love and acceptance far and wide. But I surrender my wishes to God.
What about you, Pinkies? Are you clinging to some notion of what will make you happy, trying to wrangle an outcome to match your will? Maybe you’re yearning for that promotion, or that marriage proposal, or that miracle cure, or that baby you’re trying to conceive.
Would it be possible to let go of your attachment to a certain outcome? Could you pray for inner peace and let God choose your path? Are you brave enough? Can you trust enough? Can you believe that love guides us, if we only let it?
When you do, you discover that the outcome no longer matters in the same way. If the editorial board turns down my book today, that doesn’t mean I’ve been rejected. It’s not about me at all. Publishing this book just might not fit into the Master Plan. How can I feel devastated if I believe the Universe is watching out for me and that everything happens for a reason? Perhaps, God has other plans for me. I trust.
Don’t get me wrong. That doesn’t mean I’m not still white-knuckled on the edge of my seat with anticipation and suspense. Anything could happen today. The editor might call Monkey Barbara with a bid. She might call with a rejection. Or the powers that be who make the final decision might all be in the Hamptons, with the rest of New York City in August.
Doesn’t matter. Thy will be done. ‘Nuff said.
Trusting in the Universe’s Master Plan,
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