ARE YOU NAIVELY HOPEFUL? WILLING TO EMBARRASS YOURSELF? FREE TO PLAY THE FOOL?
This could be a job ad for a first-time novelist (or whatever it is you want to be). Does it sound depressing? It shouldn’t.
It should sound liberating. Let’s break it down together.
It’s easy to lose hope when reading about the odds of publication. One minute you love your novel, the next minute you’re ashamed for being so dumbly naïve to have bothered writing it.
The plain truth is that we can’t know the future. We like to think we can manipulate Life if we are goal-oriented and ‘willing to do what it takes.’ We pretend it’s possible to master the universe in this way, but the reality is Life proves time and again we’re not in control.
This truth blares when that coveted agent rejects your query or your novel doesn’t sell as anyone hoped. This, despite your passion and doing what it took.
It doesn’t seem fair. Thus, you conclude that it’s naïve (read: stupid) to have hope.
Forget control. It’s a crock. Revel in the fact that you are ultimately unable to control outcomes of the future, such as successful publication. Hooray! Logic then dictates you may relax at last. Meanwhile, contemplate how many times Life has surprised you. It’s truly a mark of wisdom to recognize that anything can happen. That’s why it’s super smart to be hopeful even though you’re naïve. Besides, anyone can see it’s proof of your goodwill toward the world to press ahead and try to provide someone with a good read.
So how about that? To be naïve and hopeful makes you a good person. Indulge, therefore, in your writing without doubt or shame AND with the wisdom that Life does what it wants with ease—after you’ve done your part, of course.
Also, you must be…
Willing to Embarrass Yourself
Come on, now. The willingness to embarrass yourself is an excellent approach for any endeavor in life, not just writing a novel. Otherwise you get to the end of your life with regrets. Please, PLEASE get this instruction through your head: Choose risk over regret. It’s the only way to get that satisfying death-bed moment.
Listen. It is entirely probable that if your novel is published and a number of people read it, at least one somebody will think it’s god-awful. This critic may, in fact, write a review on Amazon which seems designed to shut you up forever, if not shame you into an apology for making them read it. You’ll wonder what you ever did to this stranger who clearly hates your guts and knows about your bad hair day. But it gets worse. It will come to mind that your family, friends, and enemies are going to read this tart review.
This will be embarrassing, okay?
And there’s the key word: OKAY.
Be okay with embarrassment.
It’s a simple requirement. Simple! Just remember this phrase: Straw into Gold. When you do receive criticism or flat-out rejection for the story you’ve slaved over and fallen in love with, remember that you’re a grown-up and can take it. In fact, you are free to do so. You are free to ignore criticism you deem irrelevant, free to learn from insightful criticism and improve your storytelling skill, and you are especially free to remember the positive comments just as much as the negative ones. Got it?
Free to Play the Fool
Let’s consider the big picture here.
You are free to follow your dream to write. Period. This is true even if you have a day job for paying the mortgage, did you know that? You are free to play with characters and plot, not caring about success as the world usually defines it. You can do your thing as you see fit. After all, this is America, damn it!
Here’s the problem:
Everyone wants to be as happy as a fool but without being a fool.
Read that again.
This avoidance of fooldom is nonsense and even kind of boring. I suggest this: if you truly love writing as you say, if you truly get lost in words and the crafting of a story, then consider yourself tasked by Life with being a fool and get about the business of writing that novel, NO MATTER WHAT. The alternative, just so you know, is seeking approval by playing whatever respectful role you believe family or friends expect of you.
Which is it? Play the fool and have fun, or play the role and develop indigestion?
Fools are really, really genuine people. They are open-hearted, open-minded, and ridiculously happy. Think about it.
This is a high calling, to be foolish. New, outrageous, and delightful creations have come from those willing to honor their unique interests and obsessions. Fooldom is the space of invention.
Go on now, invent your story. Do it with abandon, for the sheer love of it. Do it uniquely. Weirdly.
Like a fool.