When I was in high school and in college, I thought I'd like to be a Writer. I knew I wrote well -- I was an English major, after all. I wrote essays and papers and the like all the time. And got A's on them. But could I Write?
To me, Writing meant publication -- preferably in The New Yorker and, failing that, in some prestigious literary journal.
And I couldn't bear the thought, not so much of rejection as of anyone knowing about said rejection. I even toyed with the idea of renting a box at the post office so I could receive issues of The Writers Digest surreptitiously -- as well, perhaps,as the dreaded rejection letters.
I didn't do this -- neither did I pursue Writing any farther after sending one poem to The New Yorker and, not surprisingly, receiving one rejection letter.
It took over forty years before I decided to Write -- ie pursue publication. And somehow, a wonderful thing had happened. I had lowered my expectations. (I suspect it had to do with age and wisdom.)
It didn't have to be The New Yorker or a fine literary journal. It didn't have to be The Great American Novel or even literary fiction. I decided to have a go at a mystery -- crime fiction -- a genre that reaches from just adequate writing to Really Amazing Writing.
I gave myself permission to fail. And permission to fail publicly. (More age and wisdom -- I find that the older I get, the less I care about what others think of me.) I told people I was trying to write a mystery. When I finished it (and what an achievement that felt like!) I let it be known I was querying agents.