I ran out earlier to do a few errands. One of them was to stop by the high school and pick up tickets to the home opening football game where my 17-year-old son will be marching tonight. As I walked by the main office, I glanced up and saw my oldest son’s banner and it got me thinking about expectations.
You see, last year my oldest, Matt, graduated. He was valedictorian and he and another classmate were National Merit Scholarship Finalists. It was the first time in the school’s history that they had Finalists so it was a big deal. The two kids got these humungous banners with their pictures and names. And, like I said, the banners hang right by the front door.
I’ve often wondered what my middle child, Sam, thinks about having his brother’s banner up like that. He literally has to walk under it every day. (My youngest, a freshman this year, doesn't have to deal with this as much since she attends a different school.) While Sam is a very smart kid in his own right, he’s not the top of his class. Matt - and I say this with all the love in my heart - is a bit of a freak of nature. I’m guessing it must be rather hard for Sam to live in the shadow of so many expectations from teachers and classmates. (My husband and I have always expected our three kids do nothing but their best. We don’t compare them. Or at least try not to.) How challenging it must be sometimes for Sam to be his own person and shine in his own unique way.
I’ve been struggling with the same thing lately. Only, it’s not because of some banner. I’ve been doing it to myself!
I got it in my head that if this new project I’m working on - the one that’s barely three pages and a bunch of scribbled notes at the moment - doesn’t land me an agent or sell, I’m gonna pack it up and call it a day as a novelist. Now, how’s *that* for pressure?! No wonder I’ve been having a heck of a time finding my stride.
Why on Earth do we do this to ourselves? Our expectation when we begin any project should be to just to do our best. Publication, agents, high sales, book clubs, awards (banners with our pictures and names...) be damned.
Sure, I’ve already had a dozen or so non-fiction books published. Some of them have gotten recognition and sold well. But none of that - and I mean NONE of that - has any barring on my current project. I should have no expectations. Just the joy of letting the story grow and shine in its own, unique way.
I owe the story, and myself, nothing less.