Monday, October 19, 2009

A Promise to Me

Since I can remember, I’ve been writing. I’ve been writing journals that never get filled. I’ve been writing short stories that never get finished. I’ve been building and writing a novel that never got very far at all.

I remember the first time I showed Mr. Young a poem. As I held out that poem my heart pounded, my throat seemed to close, and my hands were sweating. I remember feeling like handing that piece of paper over to that blonde, over weight man, who had the patience and understanding of a saint, felt like I was about to jump off a 30 story building.

It took me a year in middle school, and a year in high school to work up the nerve to submit a poem to the literary magazine. In both schools, my poetry was almost always accepted. I even got nominated and won a literary contest in eighth grade. I recited my poetry in high school, and managed to dominate the literary magazine staff. And I kept telling myself that I needed more life, I needed more time before I could be serious about my writing. I figured somewhere in college or shortly thereafter, I would have what I needed to try and get published. I figured I would have found that “something” that “it” that made an author worthy of publication and serious consideration as a writer.

Then came college. Again I was told I gifted. I was good. I should write and put it out there. I worked on the literary magazine in college. You can find my name on the publication page my senior year, but you won’t find my name in the table of contents. I never submitted anything for scholarly publication, though my advisor did everything but submit my work for me. I even tried to set myself a goal of publication with my honors project. In the end, the part of the paper where I talked about my own experience trying to get published was a lie. I never sent anything.

When it came time to put my work in an envelope and send it off to a stranger, I thought of all the authors I’d ever read. I thought of the words, the phrases, the works that had moved me to tears, to convictions, to passions, to hopes, to love and I thought of my own words. What I found between what I loved in literature, and what I wrote terrified me. I felt like a fraud as I held envelope and manuscript. I felt as though I hadn’t developed or learned anything since high school. I felt like I was still that 12 year old kid handing a piece of my soul over to a man who could crush it with a cruel word. Except this time I knew that the person on the receiving end of that envelope wouldn’t be so kind and patient.

Mr. Young and all the other people who have told me I had talent, who accepted my work, and praised me where very kind. I appreciate that kindness and I do think that I understand that some of it is earned. But I’ve always kind of wished that Mr. Young would have looked at that poem and laughed. That had he torn down this dream before it got so damned big. Now I feel like if try, and I fail that it will put the truth to all the kind lies. But if I never try, then that kindness can remain. The potential for this pastime to become something more can remain potential if I do not try. I don’t want to feel like the one thing I was always good at, the one thing I always had, was a lie.

If you never try, you can never fail. If never try, you can never succeed. I know I am scared. I’m scared of all the normal things that anyone doing something big is afraid of. I am choosing to believe that I have to do this. I know that the odds are against me. I know that it might take awhile, or that publication may never happen. This is my dream though, and not everyone has the ability to chase their dream by simply putting an envelope in the mail. So, this very long entry is my promise to myself that I am going to do this. If I tell everyone who reads this that I am going to do this, then I can’t really back out. I was honest so that I can’t make any excuses as to why I’m letting my dream get stale. So thank you for putting up with this long entry and thank you for unwittingly forcing me to chase my longest, most dear dream.

4 comments:

  1. I have to say, it's really, really hard. Really hard. Publishing is an unforgiving industry. But I've been where you are right now, and let me tell you--having someone come up to you and tell you that your work made them cry? Totally worth all of it.

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  2. I have never read anything you have written, but I know you, your dedication, your intelligence, and your drive. It may not come right away, but I feel that I can be sure that publication will come. You would have met someone by now who would have told you that your work isn't all that great if it were true. Believe the praise that you have had. Believe in yourself.

    I understand where you are coming from. I did the same thing with medical school. I told everyone I could that I was applying as a way to force myself to commit. I couldn't back out of it if my family, my friends, and my co-workers were all asking me how it was coming along.

    I sent my applications in last Wednesday. I honestly don't think I will get in any where right now. I don't think it's a matter of not believing in myself, but a matter of being realistic. And I'm ok with that. I am acting as if I already received the regret letters and am finding other things to do after I graduate to prepare me to try again. Who knows, though. I had to try because maybe, just maybe, someone will see the passion and capability that I think I have and give me a chance.

    I may not be formally trained in English, but if you ever need someone to bounce ideas off of, someone to proofread for you, or just some encouragement, I am here for you. It may not come quickly, Becca, but I am sure you will be published when the time is right for you. Besides, you're much too stubborn not to win this game :)

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  3. Do NOT be afraid. Do NOT let fear drive the decisions you make about your life. Do NOT rely on others to validate you - validate yourself.

    Don't walk into a dark room and feel around, fumbling for things ... charge in, kick the door open, throw punches. why? Cause FUCK THEM. That's why.

    Do you have any idea how many publishers told Dr. Seuess we has a wack job and rejected his stuff?

    Before anyone decided to even interview me, even talk to me, I had more than fifty letters that said "Sorry Mr French, ... blah, blah", rejecting me. I kept every one of them. You know why? Cause FUCK THEM.

    I was looking forward to landing the position I wanted, and reading back over those rejection letters at a future point.

    Its your life. Good people (and you are a good persons) have few regrets when theyreach the end of their time here. FAR to often, "I wish I would pursued this dream ..." is one of them.

    Don't let that happen to you.

    And write, damn it. Its like anything else - you get to be good at it with two things - talent and practice.

    You have the talent part. Stop waiting for peopl to keep telling you that you do. You have it.

    Now practice, damn it. Just do it. And remember: FUCK THEM.

    Mike

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  4. Thanks for the comments guys.
    Mike, thank you all on your own for being encouraging and funny.

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