Les Brown, one of the world’s renowned motivational speakers, once said: “That dream that you’re holding in your mind is possible.”
I have no idea what that dream looks like for you but for me, a couple of months ago still, before I saw it unfold before my eyes, it very much looked like writing for an American media outlet and ultimately, becoming one of xoNecole’s functional components. Even a tiny one. Being a native French speaker living in a small country of Europe however, I knew for sure that my chances to become a part of the brand founder Necole Kane’s team were very low, considering I had any.
But what I also knew for sure is that everything you shoot for, you can reach if you refuse to give up.
Eventually, with a lot of work and perseverance, I managed to pave my way up there. Though as expected, not without facing obstacles and rejections.
In The Pursuit Of Your Dreams, Never Take No For An Answer
As far as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write for a living. When I was a little girl, had you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I wouldn’t have hesitated one bit. I would’ve told you, with the confidence of a child that still believes in unicorns, that I aspired to become a journalist. A writer. An author. And as you would’ve noticed the spark in my eyes that would’ve dazzled even the blind when I answered your question, you would’ve known that the simple thought of one day holding my own book between my hands or envisioning myself working for a popular American magazine, striving to earn my own weekly column like these girls in the movies, was truly what set my soul on fire.
Despite the passion I already had for writing during my childhood, though, I only gave my dream a chance not so long ago, in 2018, when I felt it was time for me to finally take a step toward the career I’d been longing for. What pushed me to make the move was telling myself that I’d wasted enough time not practicing my craft; not living the life that I’d been secretly dreaming about for years. I can’t help but smile when I look back now and realize that I actually have wasted nothing. That in order for me to become a wise writer and for my words and personal stories to have the impact I wanted them to have, I had to experience enough of this thing called life first.
Oftentimes, the years we consider having wasted are in fact years that we spent getting ready to receive our gifts. Sometimes God plants seeds in our hearts that take forever to break through and forever to grow their first fruits. But eventually, they do.
My career as a writer began with a short memoir that recounts a defining moment of my life and what it took to get there. It was my first literary work, also the first that I decided to write and publish in the language of Shakespeare, a language I particularly like for some reason. Taking my background into consideration, the lack of writing practice plus my mother tongue, the truth is it wasn’t much of a good book. As a matter of fact, sales numbers and reviews spoke for themselves. However, saying that such details diminished the pride I took in having achieved one of my oldest dreams would be lying.
My art was qualified as poor and not interesting. Yet inside, I still felt like a real, validated writer
That reminds me of one of Elizabeth Gilbert’s many moments of truth captured within the pages of her book ‘Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear’. When she confesses that “the only reason she was able to persist in completing her first novel, despite how awful it was, was that she allowed it to be stupendously imperfect. It was that she never promised the universe that she’d be a great writer. She promised that she’d be a writer.” That part.
The next step was to find a platform to contribute to besides my own blog which didn’t take a minute considering that of all the writing platforms that exist on the Internet, xoNecole was the only one I really ever wanted to submit my stories to back then. Because I’ve been admiring Necole’s journey from afar for years and I, as a woman of color dedicated to living up to her higher self, feel deeply connected to the audience and the core values of her brand, there wasn’t any other media outlet I would’ve wanted to get published on as much. A deep desire that later evolved into working for the brand. Sitting at my desk job on a rainy day of October 2018, I submitted my first draft “10 Lessons I’ve Learned From All The Men That Rejected Me Over The Last 5 Years”.
It was rejected.
Usually, this is the part of the story where you can identify two very distinct types of people; those who don’t know that rejection isn’t a dead-end and therefore—against their own will—turn their backs on their dreams. And those who are willing to work their magic until ‘no’ turns into ‘yes’.
When There’s A Will, There’s A Way
They say that failure is inevitable. That it’s part of the process. And I hate to bring it to you but they’re right. Never once have I experienced major success without failing somewhere first, nor do I know of anybody who did.
The thing with failure is that it can only be a stepping stone for success if you’re willing to fail forward. If you’re willing to allow it to show you what your next move should be. To let it teach you.
As it should, my first concern was to know why my piece was rejected. So many writers were getting published on the site, including novices like me. Not to be conceited, I couldn’t see why my name didn’t make it among theirs. But I trusted that there had to be a good reason.
The first time Sheriden Chanel, xoNecole’s Managing editor, and I spoke was via Instagram DM. I’d done my research as to who was more likely to tell me where exactly it’d gone wrong and she pretty much seemed to be that one person I needed. I reached out to her explaining that my recent submission hadn’t been approved and that I deeply wanted to understand why just so I could improve what needed to be. She hit me back a few days later and kindly accepted to grant me some of her time to thoroughly read my work and provide constructive feedback.
When I submitted this story, I didn’t expect the aforementioned ‘details’—the negative book reviews I thought weren’t deserving of my attention—to somehow come crashing back in my face. I thought it was just the Internet doing its thing: being mean and picky for no reason. I didn’t realize that my pen really needed more polishing, perhaps even better ink. Not until I received Sheriden’s notes.
“I think the biggest thing is just that English isn’t your first language. You do a dope job though, don’t get me wrong. It’s just that there are small intricacies that get overlooked with sentence structure and grammar that unfortunately, it’d just be a difficult piece to edit without changing most things.”
I was surprised, though not really, to see that I didn’t master the language as well as I thought I did. At the time, I’d already been practicing English for more than a decade. It even became a daily routine, a lifestyle, during the last couple of years. There wasn’t a thing I was doing that didn’t require me to use it. But as I like to say, the fact that you’ve been practicing something for a long period of time doesn’t mean that you’ve reached the highest level of expertise or that you do it better than a person who just started. I don’t even master my mother tongue, after all.
The facts that Sheriden pointed out were accurate. Yes, my grammar sucked. Yes, it needed significant improvement. Was I going to allow that to stop me, though? Again, absolutely not, for I believe that when there’s a will—and I can’t stress this enough—there’s always a way.
I believe it’s the essence of every success story; the will, the dedication, the perseverance as well as the efforts. Embodying these qualities unlocks a magical winning force in you that rarely goes unnoticed. Sheriden could tell how important being published on the site was to me:
“Your passion stands out to me most out of anything. […] It was obvious that you were a champion for our brand and our platform and it could be felt in how hard you went with making sure I noticed your submission and if there was something that could be done to strengthen your writing, you were willing to go the extra mile.”
These qualities are the reason why afterward, she offered to work with me on a one-off submission. That way, not only would I be able to check a goal off my list, but I’d also learn along the way. And also why the one-off submission ultimately came along with a contributor contract.
From the way I see it, it’s much, much more about the will than it is about the skill. Because from a place of lack, hard work and passion will automatically make you better at whatever it is that you’re doing, if not the best at some point.
To me, it applies to any situation, to any career that you may ambition, but towards which you’re too reasonable to take a leap of faith. A particular friend of mine comes to mind while writing this; I recall there were several times when she didn’t feel legitimate enough to apply for a job she’d been dreaming about just because she didn’t meet the requirements. I always felt like it was my mission to nudge her out of that way of thinking—and to nudge you out as well. As a Managing editor, Sheriden agrees with my reasoning—to some extent:
“For me, heart speaks more than skill set. I think because it reminds me of myself. If there is a willingness to learn, that speaks more to me as a manager looking to hire someone than a resume of credentials. […] The areas you weren’t strongest in didn’t deter you from providing quality content. In a way, your love for what you do and your love for the brand were more telling of your work and work ethic than any resume could show me. That being said, I’m more likely to hire based on a mixture of those qualities. It isn’t a requirement to show love to xoNecole. But it might as well be because I can tell if a writer gets us and what we’re trying to do versus one trying to make a quick buck. The former will always outweigh the latter.”
The beginning of my journey with xoNecole marked the achievement of my dream to write for an American media outlet. Fast forward to exactly a year later, on February 8, 2020, after striving to secure a higher position at xoNecole for months and despite “being a native French speaker living in a small country of Europe” as I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, Necole Kane offered me to join xoNecole’s staff as a community curator for the xoTribe, xoNecole’s new members’ community.
For someone who thought that my chances were very low, it turned out that the only chances I got were the ones I gave myself.
Of all things, I wish that my testimony reminds you that no dream is too big.
That throwing in the towel and conceding defeat won’t help you reach the pot of gold that’s waiting for you on the other end of the rainbow. That as you’re reading this, a way is being made. That you have to trust that you can and you will so that one day, you can proudly say that you did.
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Featured image illustration by Work The Magic Within