Ah, but that is much easier said than done on this highway through the Land of Publication. I used to dream of being published. I thought I’d be euphoric for all eternity if it happened. But now that it has, I’m more distracted than euphoric. I seem to be forever staring out the window watching somebody else’s car pass me by, and I can’t help but wish I were in their vehicle, taking their journey, instead of being stuck in mine—a car that seems to be headed nowhere fast.
I’m not a jealous person. I’m usually quite content with whatever life gives me. Somebody has a bigger house? A nicer car? The latest Balenciaga bag or a killer pair of Christian Louboutin stilettos? Doesn’t bother me. Never has. Never will. Would those things be nice to have? Yes! But I’m not going to commit every spare minute of my life to obtaining them. It seems futile. I’ve never been crazy over material things. My husband (yes, my husband!) gets aggravated when he takes me shopping and we exit the store empty handed. If I can live without that new sweater or pair of jeans, I simply don’t buy them. I don’t compete with people or seek validation through “things.” If I fail to wear the latest fashions or buy the biggest house, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t say one thing, positive or negative, about me as a person.
But…I’ve discovered over the course of the past few months that I do compete with people and seek validation through “skill.” If I fail at my “skill,” at writing—something I work hard at, am passionate about, and to which I do devote every spare minute—then I’m afraid that does say something about me, and I’m even more afraid it ain’t good.
I’m a writer. Writers are typically (and admittedly) a socially awkward lot. I am no exception. Writing is how we “talk” to the world. Ask us a question in person and we’ll likely become addled and mumble an incoherent response. Ask us a question and allow us to write out our reply and you’ll likely get an exceptionally clear and well thought out answer. Our thoughts align when we’re writing. Writing is our natural medium to communicate to the world. We share our deepest thoughts and feelings through carefully crafted blog posts and books. We want what we say to mean something—to matter.
So when Writer A is being acknowledged in a certain way, or the Twitterverse is abuzz over Writer B’s book, or Writer C has a gazillion likes on Facebook, all while I’m hearing only crickets and being largely ignored, I don’t get jealous, but the part that needs validation, the part of me that craves to be heard and to matter, is pricked. I become hyper-critical of myself and my writing and, by extension, my worth.
These are the typical thoughts and questions that roll through my head: No one understands what I’m trying to say with this book. Should I have said it differently? That was a brilliant book idea. Why can’t I think that creatively? She/he has garnered this accolade/that award. Why can’t I be her/him?
The last one is where the true danger lies. I’m not meant to be anybody but me. And I’m not meant to write what anybody else writes. And I must remind myself of this daily. At least one person, somewhere, will read my book and “hear” me. At that moment I will have succeeded in doing what I set out to do—communicate a larger truth through writing.
And, in the event that not even one person understands, I still have managed to achieve something meaningful: I stand as living proof to my children that if you stay true to yourself and work hard, dreams do come true. But dreams, even the same dreams, come to life in different ways. Some burst to life in a kaleidoscope of primary colors; others appear slowly in delicate pastels. There’s no way to know how one’s dream will be fully realized. A few short months of travel through the Land of Publication has taught me this truth.
So, I have decided that from now on, I will look away from the car window, hold tightly to the steering wheel, and focus solely on the road ahead. I’ll be tempted to peek over at the person next to me, watch their blinker and see which bypass or freeway they’re taking, but I will remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. That’s their journey, not mine. I can’t appreciate the little successes I achieve if I don’t stop coveting the flashy successes of others. From here on out I will force myself to heed the words “just sit back and enjoy the ride.”