Tag Archives: Editor

‘We Regret to Inform You’: A Story About Marriage and Book-Publishing Failure

regret to inform letter

(Image/Now and There)

I felt that little jolt of hope and nervous excitement in my chest when I saw the unopened email and recognized who it was from. Please let this be it.

It wasn’t it.

“Dear Matt. You’re not good enough. I’m not interested. Good luck.”

Damn it, I thought. I can’t believe this is happening again.

There was a lot riding on the first major non-marriage promise I’d made to my wife, because I didn’t know if I’d get to keep her if I didn’t fulfill it.

We moved to a beach town near Tampa, Fla. after graduating from the Ohio university where we’d met. I was a newspaper reporter. I wrote business stories for a daily newspaper, covering things like commercial real estate development and Florida’s regulated energy industry.

We were still five years away from the first iPhone launch, so it wasn’t weird to put your economic future in print journalism back then.

We both liked Florida—its gorgeous beaches, its mostly beautiful weather, its amazing seafood, and having sun-soaked skin most of the year. But. People—family, friends, community—mattered more to us than those great things. We missed home. We had limited financial resources in our early twenties, and it was cost-prohibitive for us to travel home. We missed funerals, weddings, class reunions, and holiday gatherings because of the distance.

It affected my wife more intensely than me. I was raised as an only child who split time between two parents who lived hundreds of miles apart. I was accustomed to living far away from people I love. I was pretty good at by-myself stuff.

But this was her first encounter with it. The distance. And she took it hard.

Living far from home was hurting her.

Her hurting was hurting me.

After our first year or so in Florida, my singular purpose became finding a job back home. That might seem like not that big of a deal. But I was a newspaper reporter. Guess how many newspaper reporting jobs are available at any given time in a livable city in Ohio?

I flew to several job interviews in Ohio. I even interviewed in Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Detroit because they were much closer to home.

There was so much riding on these interviews. It wasn’t about me getting more money or advancing my career. It was so much bigger than that. It was me fundamentally fulfilling my first promise to my wife who I married DURING the couple-year job hunt in a largely attended, and beautiful ceremony near Cleveland.

In the car, sitting at dinner, or lounging in bed, we’d talk about how much we hoped this time it would work out. That we’d finally get the offer. Total strangers I needed to be good enough for so that I could be good enough for my wife.

Sometimes I’d get a letter in the mailbox, or receive an email or phone call from a newspaper I’d interviewed with.

My chest would thump. Before answering the phone, clicking the email, or opening the envelope. This has to be it. Please God. Let this be it.

But for many months, the message was always the same: “Thank you for your interest in working with us! It was such a pleasure to meet you! Everyone on staff loved you and thought you’d be the perfect fit! Unfortunately, competition was really high for this opening, and we had a ton of qualified candidates. It was such a hard decision, but we did choose to go with someone else.”

And then I’d die a little on the inside.

“Have fun telling your wife that you failed her again. I’m sure she’ll think you’re awesome and have no regrets about hitching her wagon to a constant failure!”

Sometimes, I’d wait several hours to tell her. Because she cried almost every time. And in a way, I couldn’t make it better, because in some respects, it was my failure to win the job that made it hurt.

Other than the unfortunate situation with my parents living hundreds of miles apart from one another in my formative years, I’d never encountered personal adversity before this. If I tried to accomplish something, I usually did. (Not because I’m awesome, but mostly because I only tried to do things in which I had a certain degree of confidence, and those things tended to work out.)

I thought I was done with that experience. And I was grateful for it. But—in a much different way—I find myself back here once again.

“Sorry Matt! We really appreciate you contacting us, but we’re just not interested in anything you have to say and don’t think anyone else is going to be either. You’re not good enough. But hey! Good luck!”

I’m Trying to Make a Non-Fiction Book Titled ‘She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’

As most of you know, back in early 2016, I published a post with this title, and then all hell broke loose. A few days later, it was the most popular thing on the internet globally for 15 minutes, and I was getting dozens of media interview requests, and large publications seeking permission to republish it.

More than five million people read it on this blog. I can’t imagine how many more must have read it on the larger sites like The Huffington Post, Your Tango, Thought Catalog, Babble, etc.

The Inquistr published an article ABOUT the article. That’s when I got scared, because I was seriously trying to keep my writing a secret in my personal life.

But that’s when everything changed.

That’s when I learned that things I wrote could matter to people more than I ever imagined. A thousand people told me over the following week or so that I’d saved their marriage.

And it was no doubt hyperbole, but all I could think about was that maybe that was a thousand husbands who didn’t have to cry like I cried when my wife packed a suitcase and drove away. Maybe that was a thousand little kids who didn’t have to cry like I cried when I waved to one of my parents out the rear window while we drove the opposite direction.

That’s the moment my life became less about me and more about other people. My blog audience tripled after a solid few months of viral website traffic.

Credible publications invited me to write for them. Event organizers invited me to speak at their events. TV, radio, and podcast producers did the same.

Me! An idiot who started a blog drunk on vodka because I was upset about my divorce, and jokingly named it Must Be This Tall To Ride, because I’m not very tall (5’9”-ish) and was only then realizing what a handicap that was while pathetically trying and failing to online date. The blog was supposed to be about not being good enough for my wife, and not being good enough for anyone else either.

I didn’t think people would actually read this shit. But then they did.

Everything in my life unrelated to parenting is about trying to help others have better relationships. More accurately, it’s about helping people NOT accidentally poison them through a series of innocent, thoughtless behaviors and habits that happen in their blind spots—behaviors that ended my marriage, and ends thousands per day.

Just because we didn’t know any better.

I think I can write a book. And I think I can write a book that doesn’t suck.

Everything I write and publish is a stream-of-consciousness first draft with no editing, and no thoughtful organization. I unprofessionally spit it out in about an hour during a lunch break. Just like right now.

With the guidance of professional book makers and editors, as well as actual time to research and interview, I’m excited to see what’s possible.

But First, I Need Someone to Say Yes

About three weeks ago, I started querying literary agents for a full-length non-fiction book titled “She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink.” You might say I have strong data to support the title’s effectiveness.

When trying to publish a book the traditional way (through the old guard publishing houses in New York—there are four primary ones that have consolidated most of the traditional printing press industry) as an unknown, first-time author, the first step is sending a query letter to book agents.

I have to research agents and agencies who represent authors writing in the genres I’m interested in writing for. Then I email them a little pitch telling them about the book idea, why I think it has merit, why I think it’s unique, and why I think I’m the person who should be writing it.

And then you email them with something like “QUERY: ‘She Divorced me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink’ (nonfiction relationship self-help/memoir)” in the subject line, and hope that someone gives a shit.

The biggest agencies MIGHT write you back sometime within six months. (It can seriously take that long.) Others might write back faster.

Some have. Four, to be exact. About 25 percent of the agents I’ve queried so far.

All with the same message: “Sorry. Not interested.”

And that’s when it hit me that this wasn’t going to be easy. I don’t know whether I thought it would be easy, but somewhere deep down, I guess I hoped it wouldn’t be hard.

And I don’t mean difficult. I don’t mind difficult.

I mind hard. Where you feel it in the head and chest and feel like that 23-year-old all over again: Maybe I’m just not good enough.

Or maybe I am. I think I’m the only one who is supposed to have an opinion that counts. But, and this shouldn’t surprise anyone, it feels as if everyone’s opinion but mine matters.

Ultimately, yours.

But before I even have the opportunity to try to make something substantive for you to decide what to do with, I need some faceless stranger reading hundreds of book pitches per day to decide that mine is worth taking a closer look at.

I wish the fate of the most personally relevant and important project of my life weren’t in the hands of people I’ve never met and most likely will never meet. But that’s where we find ourselves.

Again.

Trying to be smart enough. Trying to be good enough. Trying to matter enough.

Jobs. Wife. Dates.

Must be this tall to ride.

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Help Me Find a Partner

partner

My wife would get frustrated with me because sometimes I don’t finish things.

It’s a pattern that reemerges in my life repeatedly. A new idea captures my attention. I obsess about it. I dive right in, fully immersing myself in it, sometimes at the expense of other things.

I think that became exhausting for her because she isn’t that way.

I think she saw it as a sign of immaturity and lack of discipline.

I know she saw it as a weakness.

Discovering Strengths

I participated yesterday in a self-assessment program called StrengthsFinder, a program run by The Gallup Organization (the polling institution) designed to help people better understand their strengths and behaviors.

Strictly from a personality-profile standpoint, it reaffirmed what I already knew about myself.

Strength #1 – I am inquisitive.

I have a naturally curious mind. I collect information. I crave and pursue knowledge. I tend to collect things that interest me. I am interested in many things, so I am constantly trying to learn new things.

Strength #2 – I love meeting people and making friends.

I love meeting strangers and learning about them. I want to discover common interests and build connections. There is no such thing as too many friends.

Strength #3 – I am fascinated by new ideas.

“You are delighted when you discover beneath the complex surface an elegantly simple concept to explain why things are the way they are,” my assessment report said.

No sentence in the history of the written word has more accurately described me. It is the very premise on which the majority of this blog’s content is based.

Strength #4 – I am hopeful and fascinated by the future.

I dream of every aspect of life being better in the future than it is now. It is that vision for my future and the future of those close to me that drives me each day. I am a dreamer. And I pursue those dreams. But, sometimes…

Strength #5 – I have an inherent need to start a new project or hobby.

I am interested in many new things, and when something captivates me, I need to be a part of it and throw myself into it. That makes me awesome at idea generation and starting exciting new adventures, but that also lends itself to me “quitting” things in favor of chasing the next dream that has captured my intense interest.

Something dawned on me very quickly as I evaluated my results and contemplated their meaning.

Everyone has a very different, very specific combination of strengths. And when those strengths don’t jibe exactly with our individual goals, or don’t align with our strengths, we can convince ourselves that…

Lack of Strength = Weakness

And that’s a lie. A lack of strength is an opportunity.

My ex-wife can be very shy. She is sometimes not a good networker or can come across as unfriendly because of her shyness and general preference for surrounding herself with a few close friends and leaning heavily on them.

And I might be guilty of thinking of my wife’s shyness as a weakness, instead of properly identifying her strength as a loyal friend who builds super-tight bonds with those closest to her.

Similarly, my wife thought I was undisciplined and flighty instead of recognizing what I actually have is a strong ability to generate new ideas and passionately pursue new challenges.

Our individual strengths are hardwired into every one of us.

I Want to Write Books

As you can imagine, my strength profile makes it very difficult for me to see a project somewhat epic in scope (like a book) through to completion on my own.

Frankly, that applies to virtually every aspect of my life (I’ve said many times that much of what ails me will naturally work itself out when I have a full-time romantic partner again).

The woman (a friend) who is coaching me through this StrengthsFinder process said: “Based on a cursory look at your strengths, you’re gonna need a partner,” in regards to completing book projects.

“What do you mean? A co-author?” I said.

“You’re a starter. But can tend to let things cool… a co-author… a publisher pushing you. Someone you empower to give you deadlines,” she said. “You need a partner of some kind who can propel you. Motivate you. You’ll have to figure out what that looks like.”

“Interesting,” I said. “Maybe an editing partner.”

“Exactly,” she said.

I love writing. I have a lot to say. And I’m very close to being ready to pull the trigger on these larger writing projects I have floating around in dozens of notebook pages, computer files and folders.

My favorite writer James Altucher often writes about the need for collaboration.

“There’s no such thing as a lone genius,” he writes. “Every Steve Jobs has a Steve Wozniak. Every Marie Curie has a Pierre Currie. Every Lennon has a McCartney. Even the most isolated genius (Picasso) had a Braque.”

I am no “lone genius.” I think that goes without saying.

But I do really want to finish these book ideas, if for no other reason than to learn how (or how to NOT) write and publish a book. It’s time to get started.

But I need a partner.

I don’t just want a partner. I need one. And I’m DONE thinking if I keep doing the same thing over and over and over again, it’s going to magically work one day. It will ALWAYS end the same if you keep trying the same thing.

We can call it a weakness if you must.

But I’m going to embrace my strengths. Everyone has them. And I’m going to leverage them. And I’m going to supplement my missing strengths with people in possession of the ones I need to accomplish my goals.

And I need one of those now. A person who possesses what I’m missing.

Are you a writer who has worked with an editor you like and respect? Are you an editor looking for a new project? Do you know how to find editors outside of traditional publishing? Do you have any tips for how to know when you’ve found the right person to work with on your most-important work?

I’m asking for your help.

I need a partner.

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