Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How writing is like middle school


There’s been a lot of talk about the Student of the Year award around my house lately. It’s a special recognition that each team of teachers at my daughter’s middle school give to one student each year. My daughter was really hoping to be chosen and was crushed when she learned someone else got picked. She cried for hours and there wasn’t much I could do but tell her *I* think she’s amazing.

Wanting to be recognized for our hard work is simply part of being human. I think, as writers, we are keenly aware of that. But here’s the thing: looking outside of ourselves for validation and recognition rarely ends well. It’s taken me a long time and many years in the writing business to realize this.

Here are a few of things I shared with my daughter. (I was a little more subtle with her; 13 year-olds are not known for listening to Mom!) See how many of them also apply to having a manuscript rejected:

Someone else succeeding doesn’t mean you failed.

You can do your best and still not win.

There were lots and lots of other people to choose from; the decision probably wasn’t personal.

You don’t know how well other people did.

Don’t do the work because you want something. Do your best because it feels good.

You can only control what you can control. Let the other stuff go

Success is not a pie with a finite number of pieces; there’s enough to go around. Your turn will come.

After the initial sting of disappointment, my daughter pulled herself together. I think she’ll be okay. After all, like Tom Hanks once said, “You learn more from getting your butt kicked than you do from getting it kissed.”

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