A couple of years ago I made an observation which I found startling. I worked for a couple of fellows who were very talented artistically, but where awful businessmen. The constant juggling and borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, drove me, their general manager, nuts.
I couldn’t understand how they could operate that way, much less live that way. Yet, they did and managed to pull off some very impressive things.
I also have friends who have done what I considered to be some very risky stuff and came out the other end on top. One friend in particular has become quite successful and it’s funny to me because I knew them when, so to speak and remember many times in the not too distant past when they would have been happy to be working at McDonald’s.
I became curious about this thing called success and so I started to really watch them, the boys and my friend, looking for some common denominator. One, which, apparently I lacked. I started to really listen to the things they said, how they dealt with others and there general approach to life.
What I found was that my friend and the boys and in fact, as I thought about it, anyone I knew personally who was or had been successful was ego. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way. But they all do/did have quite the ego. They all believed that they were somehow superior, better, more capable, smarter, talented (you name it) than most other people.
This really floored me. Just to realize that the difference between constantly trying and getting nowhere and succeeding and ultimately getting what you want, was about having an ego that in some cases, actually lied to you. Sometimes quite often.
I looked around a bit at other people whom I didn’t know, to see if that was the deciding factor. I certainly found many examples. Madonna is a good one. She is marginally talented – accept for her dancing which used to be pretty good, and may still be but I’m not up to date on what she’s doing these days – yet she is one of them most famous and successful women in show business. David Letterman, a very popular talk show host, who clearly has a big ego – and not that talented. On the funny scale he rates about a 3, yet he’s making a bagillion dollars a year while many of my blogging friends who are hilarious are working 9 to 5 jobs. John Grisham is a another example – his writing style actually causes me pain, but everything he writes sure do make good, formulaic movies which of course make millions of dollars.
So far, it seems to be bearing out.
But here’s the rub – what am I/we supposed to do? I even tried to sort of emulate my friend – walk with a struth and swagger, think of myself as hot shit and all I got was my little voice chastising me for being a jerk. I try to cop an attitude and people just look at me and laugh. It’s pathetic really.
Since I’ve been on this quest to get an agent and somehow manage to do the impossible and get published it’s been beating up what little ego I have. In fact, my ego is so sore that it can barely move. Yet, I know that is what I need. I need to act and believe like I’m hot shit. Be confident though nobody in the world wants to represent me or publish me. Know that they are all wrong and I am right. Quite the challenge. Possibly the impossible dream. But what’s a Irish Catholic girl from the Midwest to do?
Nope, I don’t know the answer. But I do think I’m onto something. So starting today, I will practice my affirmations, come up with ego boosting mantras and look down my nose at as many people as possible. I will act like I have a million bucks in the bank and I don’t need a thing. Act as though I am motivated by ambition alone. LOL. Think it will work?
Yes, I’ve received my first rejections on my project ‘Get An Agent’ and no, I’m not too disheartened. It was a little stunning getting those first few self addressed stamped envelopes, I had so carefully printed, stamped and placed inside the packages and letters I’d sent. Surreal. I knew without opening them that the answer in all of them was, no. Some of them were so light that I wondered if there was anything in the envelope at all. There was. The smallest slip of paper, politely declining my request. The common response was that they had full client lists and/or the material was not right for them.
I had to wonder though, when they said the material was not right for them, what did that mean, exactly? Was it just a polite way of saying, “Get away from me kid, you’re bothering me” or something else? How could material not be right for an agent? Do they specialize too? Is the world now just full of people who specialize and work in niche markets? It could be, but I couldn’t tell you. All I know is that these folks were either too busy or my material was not ‘right’ for them.
The interesting thing to me was that it didn’t break my heart or make me utter an unintelligible curse in their direction. I expected them. I think you have to expect rejection before you can expect acceptance. Life is like that, isn’t it? You don’t just hop on a bike and zoom down the street, popping wheelies like a pro. Nope. You get on the bike and fall down. And sometimes it’s funny and people laugh at you. But if you want to ride that bike badly enough, you get back on, willing to fall as many times as necessary for you to master it. To get to the goal of zooming down the street and popping wheelies like a pro. Yes, you get right back on the bike and you keep trying until you get there.
But I don’t like the word, trying. Trying implies that your heart isn’t in it. You’re trying to cope. Trying to learn. Trying to make do. Trying to accept rejection. No, I think maybe learning is a better word or just doing. So, this week, I’m doing rejection. I may do it next week again and perhaps even the week after that. Eventually, I’ll get it right.
It feels a little odd to be writing these words and thinking these thoughts because they seem unlike me. I was always a sensitive child and often took things to heart, personally, and would get so discouraged. I was frankly, afraid to even try this because I was afraid I would have that very reaction. Afraid that the Drama Queen would come out and have tantrums and then feel sorry for herself. But the DQ, seems to be happily asleep while I contemplate this new attitude. While I step into this new suit and strut across the room in it. Maybe a few more rejections will coax the Queen out and she’ll have her way with me, but I don’t think so. I think maybe I don’t need her that much anymore. I think that I know what I want and that I’m okay with going after it. Whether it takes days, weeks or years doesn’t seem to matter anymore.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped getting torn up about what people thought of my work. Either they like it or they don’t. Will read it or won’t. It’s always wonderful to get the praise and please a reader but I think that sometimes you learn more from the reader who rejects your work. Whether it’s writing or anything else. If you’re smart and you listen, you will learn things about your work from the naysayers. Maybe how to improve it but more maybe about yourself and what your work really is and isn’t. Who it is for and who it isn’t for. That’s pretty valuable stuff.
I can accept rejection now, I suppose the real question is, can I accept acceptance? Now, there’s an interesting thought.
I know I haven’t been around much lately, so I thought I’d give you a quick update of what I’ve been doing lately.
I have a bunch of agents to query this week – I may still try to post but I have 35 agents to hit and I want to get this done this week.
So…if you don’t see much of me, that’s where I am and what I’m doing.
Something has happened to me lately- maybe I’ve realized how much I want this (to get published) or something. I don’t know. But last weekend, I spent 5 hours poring over lists of agents and came up with 35 to submit to. I know it’s a longshot, as is everything you really want in life but I’ll never know if I don’t try. And I really want to try. That’s probably the biggest change. Maybe in the past I’ve been satisfied with just writing. I do love to write and I do it all the time and it is satisfying. But now, it seems I also want to be read – widely. Is it an ego thing? I don’t know. I suppose it could be – but maybe it’s really just a natural progression. Maybe I’ve finally decided that maybe I have something to say and that maybe others would like to know about that. Or maybe that I’ve decided I’m good enough to give it a shot. It’s like the beautiful butterfly that weaves in and out of the garden though, if you just watch it – it will entertain you for hours – but if you try to catch it, it eludes you. I suppose that isn’t the best analogy but hopefully you get the idea.
While all my friends have been supportive and encouraging when it comes to writing – and frankly, that counts for a whole hell of a lot. I’ve had two friends in particular who have really helped push me over my apathy or whatever the heck it was who I want to say, thank you, to.
Thanks Jess, for the deadline, reading the novel, all the really great things you’ve said and all the good honest feedback. I don’t think I would have gotten the ball rolling if you hadn’t just jumped in and helped me push myself.
Thanks Andrea, for wanting to help. For calling me out of the blue and offering your marketing savvy and taskmastery to me. For believing in me and telling me you think I’m the ‘real deal’.
It’s amazing people – just having someone to tell me what to do (read guidance) has seemed to make all the difference. In less than a month I’ve completed the synopsis, the query, cleaned up the manuscript and found 35 agents, plus about 20 contests I want to enter. This week, I query agents. Next week, I tweak stories, the week after that, I enter contests – and so it goes.
Suddenly, I am a mean, lean writing/marketing machine and it feels frickin great. I’m loading up my computer with mega RAM, getting a laptop (used and cheap) as well. I haven’t made this kind of progress in years or maybe ever. The postage, paper and ink is probably gonna break me but I don’t care. It’s what I want.
And you want to know something really funny? One of the things that is really motivating me is that I want to start a new project – a new novel. And I guess I don’t feel that I can until I get this thing moving. Does that make sense? I had all but given up on it – weird huh?
Anyway, that’s what I’m doing and I’m really glad and thankful that I’m doing it. It will probably mean that the blogging won’t be as compulsive as it’s been, I may not post as much or visit as much. But I’ll still be around. You’ll still see me. And I’ll keep everyone updated on any and all progress – if you want me to.
And too, I wanted to thank all you guys – for coming and reading and commenting and encouraging me into thinking that there are people out there who want to read what I write. That there is some value there. It has meant the world to me. You’ve no idea how much all of you have made a difference in my life in that way. I love you all.
(This is a very special letter to my cat – my love, my joy, my giant-hernia-producing-pain-in-the-butt, cat.)
I saved you from sure extermination. That day I first saw you with your big red eye (that had been injured when a nail somehow got in there) and so tiny I could fit you in my hand. You stole my heart with your aloof and feral ways. I had to take you home and make you my own.
At first you were shy and would wait until I was half conscious on the couch before you would venture out and crawl up on my chest, where you would sleep, issuing forth your little snore. Fur soft as silk – a funny face with yellow eyes that said ‘I have no brain cells’ I quickly came to love you.
We had many adventures, and you learned how to be a dog from the old girl – who we finally had to put asleep. But we fared well for that year when it was just you and me. Then came the puppy, who you in the tradition of our family, taught to be a cat. To jump up on counters and perch on the back of sofas and chairs. To prefer eating from your cat box, rather than her dish. Oh sure, there was sibling rivalry but secretly, I knew you loved each other. As evidenced by the good morning kiss you give each other every morning. Followed by a barking and yeowling tussle.
But much as I love you my dear, overweight, obese and funny cat there are a few things we need to get straight:
1. When my eyelashes flutter at 4 a.m. I am not awake and getting ready to feed you, I am dreaming.
2. When the first fingers of sunlight filter through our guazy curtains, it is not time to feed you.
3. When I get up in the middle of the night to pee, it is not midnight snack time.
4. When I come home from work and I turn on my computer, it is not dinner time.
5. When I move, it is not feeding time.
6. When I speak, it is not lunch time.
7. When I turn on the shower it is not time to feed you.
8. Are you sensing a pattern here?
I know that you don’t like Roomie’s cats and therefore you refuse to leave our room, with all your hiding places and the doggie to protect you from the evil ones. But seriously, you need to go to Jenny Craig’s. You need to get a full length mirror and look, really look at yourself. It is time for some real tough love here. You are FAT. Yes, you are. You are F.A.T. fat. You must brave the great outdoors and chase some mice or lizards or spiders or whatever it is you like to chase. You must go out and kick some Roomie Cat butt and make a space for yourself in the yard, with it’s big trees and green grass and several patio chairs just right for napping in the sun.
You must, my cat, come to know that there is more to life than food.
I was thinking about silence last night. It’s an odd thing to think about because on the face of it, it seems like nothing. But it really isn’t. It’s a big something. It’s like a promise of what could be. As a writer, I have always enjoyed being alone. I like to think, thinking, pondering, considering, imaginging. All of these things are solidary actions.
Though, I’ve been able to do them in crowded rooms, noisy bars, on busses, at work, wherever – because somewhere along the line I’ve learned to create a bubble of silence in my own head, my own space. It produces an interesting sensation, almost like floating and looking out at what is or isn’t happening around you. All of that is distant and the silence settles in.
I know that some people don’t like silence. They hurry to fill it up with words, sounds, music, televisions, aimless action, in order to avoid it or hide from it. I think that’s a shame. I think that they are missing out on something. The opportunity to hear who they are. To see what they think. To know what they feel.
Someone much smarter than I said, “A person is only as valuable as they can serve others.” I agree. But I also think that one can’t serve others, bring joy, happiness, help or peace to others if they cannot bring it to themselves. And that to do that for yourself, you need that silence. That time with just you. Not to become self-absorbed or create a nifty little altar to the greatness of you – but know yourself, your beliefs, what’s important. It’s very revitalizing to take the time. Even (or maybe especially) if you don’t have it to take.
That television will be re-run again, that ballgame will be written about in the sports page tomorrow, that cheeseburger will have another one just like it the next time you go through the drive-thru.
So next time you find yourself getting nervous by the silence around you, whether you are in a room alone or standing on an overcrowded train platform – reach out and grab it for yourself. Hang onto it. Let it take over for a minute. You may learn something you never knew about you before. And it might make all the difference.
That’s what my silence is like, what’s yours like?
PS: There is an excellent post on this topic here. I highly recommend it.
The bane of my existence of late has been the synopsis for my novel – or should I say the lack thereof? Yeah, probably. This is a puzzle for me, since generally speaking I haven’t much trouble writing anything. In my illustrious (or not so illustrious) career as a writer I have written menus, newletters, how-to articles, stock offerings, business plans, short stories, poems, novels, blurbs, ad copy, business letters and I guess pretty much anything else you can think of. Yet, this animal known as the synopsis stymies me. It sends me out to shop, pull weeds, clean baseboards, shampoo the dog, vacuum, even ironing. Anything so I don’t have to face the fact that I simply suck at these things.I’ve gone to countless websites, read countless how-to and advice articles on the thing, begged many of the writers I know for tips, tricks and advice and really to no avail. I do have one started. But you know it’s been started for quite a while now and despite constant watering and fertilization it hasn’t become a synopsis yet. Which probably means I’m actually going to have to do something about it, with it, around it.I have recently employed the help of a fellow writer and asked her to give me a deadline or something, to see if that actually helps. Well, she has given me the deadline, so she has held up her end of the bargain. And I’ve written it on a little piece of paper that I prop up against my monitor (and successfully ignore almost always), so I suppose I’ve begun to do my part. But…
Now, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a little background: A couple years ago, maybe longer, I wrote a murder mystery that was really quite a lot of fun to write. Then it sat, because…well, then there is that marketing thing that must be done. You’d think since I’ve done marketing for other people and was actually paid for it, that it’d be a snap for me to do some for myself – not so much. So, it sat some more. A few months ago I had a friend read the manuscript which sort of got me fired up again and again I was determined to do this synopsis and I did get started and about a 1/3 of the way through but then – clunk – stopped. The bitch of it is that I need the darn thing to interest agents and publishers in my novel. I can’t just send it to them with a note that says, please read. They just won’t go for that approach anymore. Too bad, but true.
So, here I sit, waiting for the synopsis faery to drop by and sprinkle some magic dust over my computer so I can wake up to a perfectly done and presentable synopsis. I am getting a little worried though, my last call to her wasn’t returned and time is zipping by.
So, now I’m going to do something that I probably shouldn’t – I’m going to tell you the deadline. That way, if you’re in a particularly naggy mood on that day you can rag my butt about whether or not it’s done. Or you can make fun of me because I am just a total synopsis slacker. Take your pick. The deadline is – June 5th of this year (damn it!). So synchronize your watches and get those water balloons ready. Otay?
There was a movie made a couple of years back called Crash. I can’t say I was much of a fan of this movie because it seemed to use extreme stereotypes to deliver its message. Personally, I feel that if you are going to do a film or story with a ‘message’ then you have to go outside the box and find the story that delivers that message, rather than try to build a story around the message.
However, the concept was an interesting one – even a good one. To me, it posed the question: Is life a series of crashes in which we are all victims or do we create crashes in our lives in order to make contact with it?
In recent months I’ve been doing a lot of crashing in my life, with my life, around my life and to my life. I won’t deny that this has bothered me a great deal. While I’ve always been a person who ponders and at least tries to look at the deeper meaning of life, I have always been able to see the light side and tried to just enjoy my life, such as it is. I’ve even been known to find life an utter and complete joy for no better reason than the sun was shining and my garden was growing.
So, to realize that life has become a series of crashes, both real and metphoric was a bit of a stunner for me. And of course, I’m not talking about the good crashes. That fun and exciting, inexplicable slam into the swing of things. That amazing tango of new and exciting concepts, people, places and things. That banging out of the door to greet yet another glorious day. Oh no, my friend – not those types of crashes at all.
Rather, I’m talking about cars being damaged, employee revolts, headaches, stomach aches, tax returns, root canals, bad digestion, sleepless nights, frustration, self-doubt and the sense of being trapped in a small box, dancing in peanut butter while wearing a white dress. Old Chevy keeps breaking down, running out of money on my credit cards to cover it – okay, got a new car – oops now there’s a big dent. Job that I loved went to nowheresville, okay get a new job – oops, it’s hell on earth. Hmm, hangnail, let me just take care of that – oops, now I’ve ripped the whole nail out of place. Yep, it’s been fun. A real laugh riot.
But given the kind of person I am, I refuse to surrender. I refuse to lay down and die. Even though sometimes, I think I’m going to just expire like last week’s cottage cheese and go down in a blue flame of methane gas – some kernal remains alive and true to who or what I am.
I wonder if God is testing me or maybe it’s just me testing me. In the past, when I’ve become bored, a buttload of trouble followed. That sure got my interest going again. But there must be a better way to get interested in life again. There must be a less threatening way to feel alive than to have everything go to shit and then go through the tedious process of pasting it back together again. Right?
And the only answer that seems to surface is creativity. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Sounds like something we could all do. We could just go create something. People do it all the time – it takes the form of hobbies, sports, gardening, singing, dancing, telling jokes, hell even re-arranging the livingroom could classify as something creative. Yet, it seems when you need them the most, the creative juices won’t flow. They’ve frozen and slammed shut the door that leads you there. The colors of the world around us sort of dull down. There are too many crashes going on around us. The door is broken, the cat is sick, your child is having a crisis, work sucks the life out of you. The most creative you feel is maybe voting for the least offensive American Idol contestant. Or possibly painting your fingernails (although the dry time is a bitch).
What’s a person to do? Life ganging up on one can sure seem like a pretty unfair fight. I mean shit, you against all of life? The whole universe? The entirety of the inertia of apathy that has snowballed and blocked your front door? Not fair. Not fair at all. Can you say, I surrender?
But here’s the thing. You have a choice. You really do. At least, I think you (I) do. You can just say, no. Really, you can. You can turn the tables and say, ‘okay life, what are you gonna throw at me today?’ You can laugh in the face of life and say, ‘big fricking deal.’ I know whenever I’ve read any book about a self-made, successful person that seems to be what they have done. They have made and lost fortunes several times in their lives. They have gone where few have dared to go. They had vision. They had guts. And man oh man did they have disappointments and troubles too. I’d like to think I could do that. I’m not sure I can. I’m not sure I have the nerves of steel or vision or whatever it is to do such things – but I must have enough gumption to get a little creativity going, right?
Yeah, I’m always going to have the bullshit stuff. Jobs, rent, dental visits – bills, problems, whatever… But I’ve denied myself my own joy of creating of late. I’ve denied myself the permission and pleasure to look around and see all the pretty things that surround me. Many of which I made myself. I took Roomies two pathetic strips of dirt in the backyard, which he was using for weeds, and planted a garden. Now I have lettuce, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and flowers. It sure didn’t cost much and really didn’t take that much time – but I sure do get a charge out of it. Every day when I get home from work, I say to my dog, ‘okay, let’s go look at the garden.’ She gets so excited she nearly explodes. So we go. Actually, I look at the garden and she runs around chasing her tail – but we both get a charge out of it.
I still have a pretty car, even though some joker left his mark in it. I have friends and I have ideas. And those may be the bestest and prettiest things I have in my life. Ideas. They are free-form and ever-changing – they are new and different and they are something wholly and completely made of myself. No seeds necessary, no fertilizer, no participation from others even – though those things help. They don’t weigh anything, don’t require closet space and I can take them with me wherever I wander.
So, I’m taking a do-over on my particular crashes in life. I’m going start crashing into my creative inner child. I’m going to crash into the sunshine and see what’s out there. If other people don’t like it, then they’ll just have to figure out their own crashes I guess. Maybe you’d like to give it a try too. If nothing else, it’s sure to be an adventure. Happy landing.
Been doing a lot of thinking lately. Sometimes that’s good. Sometimes that’s annoying. Right now, it’s annoying. I’m not really in a thinking mood, you know?
I’d really rather just bum around, enjoy Spring, the sunshine, the birds, the flowers, my ever expanding garden – but….
My darn mind won’t turn off. Everything I see, seems to have some deeper meaning in it. Or maybe it’s all just too serious right now. I’d love to find that goofy, ain’t life a joke flow again. I could stand riding it all the way to the end.
Isn’t it funny how things come in waves? Maybe in life, but definitely as a writer. No matter how much I try to direct my mind and my attention onto a specific mind-set it simply won’t cooperate. It just wants to ponder and think and consider and all that really boring stuff.
What a bother. A mind that refuses to stop thinking. Damn my mind. Damn it all to hell.
I need to find an adventure.Something stupid and ridiculous. Something that I shouldn’t even consider doing. Something that is way beyond excusable for a woman of my age. Do you think they’ll do a spin-off called “Ancient Idol”?
Do you remember the first time you ever felt jealousy? I do. It was in kindergarten and Rudy Richards (little hotty that he was) was my sorta boyfriend.
He used to run at me, kiss me, knock me on my dainty little butt and take off like the wind again. Ah, bliss. My heart did a little pitter pat whenever he was around. He always shared his apple with me and would push me on the swings. Plus he had a really nice mom.
Life was sweet until Rudy set his sights on Judy Thompson – the little harlot with her ruffles and dimpled cheeks. Oh yeah, once he saw her, I was like yesterday’s milk. No more running kisses for me. His heart had been taken by another.
Well, that’s all water under the bridge now. And it’s especially fun that he grew up to be a hoodlum and God knows where Judy ended up.
But I wonder, did the Rudy incident set me up where men were concerned? Did he instill in me a distrust at that young an age? Did he scar me for life? Hell, no. But it is amusing to think about.
So, what was the first pang you ever felt from the green-eyed monster? Did you survive it? Are you still hurting? Did you have the last laugh?