Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Without checking, I think it was in the last entry that I mentioned a conversation I had with Elorza about whether or not I thought of myself as a writer, and what it meant to me to be one. Tonight, I had another conversation with Dan in which I informed him of one of the little secrets I am less and less compelled to share with the world: that I recently wrote took the time to commit one of my many story ideas to paper, went so far as to hire an editor to work on it with me with aspirations of publishing it, and then, just as I was putting the finishing touches on it and quite by coincidence, found out about a contest that seemed so custom-tailored to my story that I sent it off without a doubt in the world it would win.

It didn't, of course, but that's old story. The one we're talking about, the one I wrote, well, that's still fairly new. And so life, inevitably, goes on.

I'm finding I do very poorly with failure-- so poorly, in fact, that it's beginning to make me question if it was fear of failure, all along, that kept me from going out and accomplishing all that it was so evident I could. This isn't something I ever suspected of myself. (I am taking a moment to imagine, at this point, my loyal readers-- the ones that are a thing of my fantasy, who have read every word of this blog since it's wailing, bloody birth and have grown to know me better than I know myself-- scoffing. "Linda!" They laugh, shocked but in a good-natured tone, "How could you not have seen this, all of these years? Poor, sweet girl.") Indeed, I have thought of those quotes by all the great minds, too many to name-- that failures are merely steps on a path to success, that there are no mistakes-- as gospel, never did I question the wisdom. I guess this kind of weakness is the worst, the kind you have no concept of. I suppose, then, that by the same logic as "failures are successes", I should think of this revelation as nothing more than opportunity. I, Linda H., am a not a coward, but one who has been presented with the opportunity to overcome cowardice!

Is it me, or is it getting a little hot in here?

The conversation with Dan culminated, of course, in his insistance that I continue to seek to get the story-- a picture book manuscript-- published. I assured him that I never had any intention of giving up, that never had even a wisp of the idea crossed my mind, and it was true, of course.

Unless you count the sound of my heart as it beats out "give up, give up, give up." with a growing, Poe-like intensity.

The first time I submitted a picture book manuscript to a publisher, officially, was in elementary school. I had written a story-- a horrendous story about sledding down the wrong side of a hill-- with absolutely no concept that it was utter crap. No one had told me it was bad-- no one had any reason to, hell, I was....seven? Eight? They all told me it was good, and it was, for something written for someone in my age. I was a smart girl, and a good writer, and that much I was always confident of. Sure, I was vastly unpopular. I was wearing hand-me-down clothes and my hair was unkempt, and yeah, I probably smelled funny. But I was smart, and I knew that, they couldn't take that away from me. I guess they all assumed, though, I was smart enough to realize that, realistically, it was unpublishable. I wasn't.

I waited and waited for my claim to come in the mail. I spent the time doodling pictures of my literary agent-- he had tacky, hollywood personality and a red convertible that he referred to as "Beaut." Among other things I didn't understand, I thought that writers got the same sort of glamorous treatment that movie stars got. The future always holds so much when you have no clue.

My response came, quite unexpectly, two full years later. In the letter, a sweet woman praised my talent and suggested that I try submitting my story to a magazine featuring work written by children. I never did. By the time I received the letter, my age was in the double-digits, and I knew already that the story had been crap.

I may have been dejected for a while, I don't remember. What I remember was my mother telling me "You've gotten your first rejection from a real publishing company! You're an official writer now!" And we celebrated.

I bragged about that rejection for months, about my status. Never did I think of it as a failure-- I was too smart, too golden, too young for that. Honestly, at that point in my life, I never thought failure was an option for me. No one mentioned it; no one was worried. Never had even a wisp of the idea crossed my mind. When my heart beat, it said "You will, you will, you will."
I think about the progress I've made, the way I've struggled away from that smelly girl in the hand-me-downs. Maybe I've traded one brand of confidence for another. Maybe I've just lost it all around. It feels, though, like I could stand to get a little bit of her back. I could handle the unpopularity, I think, if only to get some spark of that sureness, that bright-eyed naivety in the face of tomorrow. Sometimes it seems I have nothing in common with that little girl at all.

I shouldn't be so hard on myself, though. I still smell pretty bad.

On with it.