Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I'd like to thank the academy...

Are we so used to rejection and the sky falling that anytime something wonderful happens, it shocks the living doo right out of us?

My response:  a vehement 'maybe.'

I preached a few weeks ago about this business being nothing but farming:  with each new contact we make, with each new eBook submission, with each new shiny dollar we use to bribe friends for their support, we...are...planting...seeds.  And like real plants, they take a while to grow.  Some may even forget where they planted, or what seed it was.  But when they finally come to fruition, it makes us feel all warm inside, like we've finally really accomplished something.

But why does that continually surprise us?  Why are we so geared toward failure, and accepting that as the norm?

Yesterday, I learned, quite by accident, that my upcoming novel, The Gaslight Journal, is now sitting in the number one spot at the HarperCollins web-site for the week's listings.  (I'd like to thank the academy...)  I've worked very hard at my writing--especially that book, because it was a genre that I love to read--am a huge Jane Austen, Edith Wharton and Henry James fan--but was wholly unfamiliar with as a genre in which to write.  In fact, I'll give you guys a little secret--the entire book hinged off one comment; the first comment that popped into my head one snowy, Christmas evening.

"Her bustle hit the ground, hard."

Don't ask me why bustle was in there, but it was, and I suddenly could actually see the story unfolding before me.  It was as if a movie was playing in my mind.  There were the snow-covered small-town streets, her black boots with the buttons, getting knocked over by a group of handsome, but moronic college men (who, we eventually learn, actually know her), and walking home from the train station to her childhood home.  I could see it all so clearly, that I had to immediately begin dictation.

And now, here we are, too many years later, and up to chapter twenty-six.  Why too many years?  Why didn't I just get it out when it began?  Because I had no confidence in my abilities.  Oh, I'd plunk away at it as the mood hit me, but never really took it seriously as a discipline until recently.

Which brings me to my essay thesis.  I think the reason we become so surprised when something wonderful happens for us, isn't because we didn't plant the seed, but because we did, and we weren't convinced that anything would come from it.

What is the first sensation we are faced with just a few seconds after birth?  That's right--the doctor kicking our ass--he slaps it.  And we cry.  I know, it's a wholly physiological response to getting the phlegm out of the lungs as quickly as possible, but I like its metaphorical purposes as an allegory.  It's this harsh introduction to reality that kind of sets the tone for the rest of our lives.  Judeo-Christianity tells us that we are born morally bankrupt, into a world of sin thanks to Adam and Eve's being an apple short of a baker's dozen.  There are a rare few who believe that people are born decent, but that's a load of crap.  I don't believe that.  I believe we're born with the odds stacked incredibly against us, and from the word 'go,' we spend most of our time fighting for what we truly want out of this life, which, if when analysed, make us dig deep into that dark, survival-centred place.  We fight ourselves, in the hopes of making peace with who we are.  We fight our parents for the car, for freedom, for adulthood.  We fight the world for peace, for fairness and for respect.

We fight our entire lives.  And we see failure.  Statistically, the odds of us succeeding are also stacked against us from the outset.  So we learn to fight the odds, too.  And we get knocked on our asses--plenty.  And we get our hopes dashed--plenty.  We see our dreams broken into tiny pieces, and if we can't recover, then we take pieces of that dream and slash our wrists with it.  (Hey!  This is pretty good stuff.)

All of this to say, we're groomed pretty much from the beginning to expect failure for most of our lives.  It's even in our vernacular:

"Don't get your hopes up."
"No one expects you to work miracles."
"Aw, better luck next time."
"Without bad luck, I'd have no luck at all."
"Why can't you do anything, you idiot?  Do you think you're too good to stay here on the farm and milk the cows......."  Okay, so I threw one in from my parents, but follow along.

And my favourite, by comedian Steven Wright:

"People always tell you that practice makes perfect.  And then they fake you out and tell you nobody's perfect."

This society as a whole is completely obsessed with failure!  And your "supportive" friends only reinforce it, with their condescension.  "Aw, you'll do better next time," while at the same time they're jumping up and down, happy that you failed and they still have a shot.  And maybe that's why I screech so loudly when something good finally happens.

People, we are not jockeying for position, here, we're all in this moronic soup together!

Where was I?

Oh, yes:  Why, oh why do we pay taxes??

And, scene.

What happens if it works?

My friend Lelia has that in her sig file, and I love it.  It is so antipodal to the normal way we view life, always trying to prepare for the contingency if it breaks.  In fact, we're so focused on that, that we never prepare ourselves for what to do when it finally works.  Maybe that's the reason some self-sabotage themselves before ever becoming successful.  They never prepared themselves mentally for handling the situation when they finally hit it big.

And mental preparation is needed for success.  Just ask those folks who are busy being successful.  But they probably won't have time to return your call.

How about, for the next week, I challenge you to begin planting seeds, preparing for the time when you are successful?  At the end of the week, come back here and post your experiences with it.  I'm curious to see how it goes.

Now, and I'm not just saying this:


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