A few years ago, I used to play at a tennis club that had regular hit groups on Saturday mornings. You'd go in for a couple of hours and just hit ball after ball - no games - just hitting. I always thought of it as a good opportunity to burn off some maple bar lbs. and at the same time get some good practice time in without the pressure of having to win in a match. And most people that came to these groups seemed to have the same attitude - except one.
She'd hit at the ball as hard as she could every single time it came to her. And a lot of the time, because she wasn't adjusting her reaction to the ball that was approaching, her balls would either go wide, long or in the net. And then she'd yell - loudly - every time that happened.
I liked to refer to her (in my own head of course because she was bigger than me and had a racket in her hand) as "Old Yeller".
It was actually pretty overwhelming to watch this happen over and over again throughout the course of two hours. WHACK! Super loud yell. WHACK! Super loud yell, and so on and so on and so on. But would she ever try to vary her shots - try to take the pace off, slice, anything? Nope.
I thought about Old Yeller the other day when I heard a writer complain about feeling discouraged about their work. They'd been submitting a story for about a year and received rejection after rejection. And this writer was getting ready to pay to have it published themselves. Okay, I know there are a lot of fans of self-publishing out there and I think it's a fine idea to go that route if your book fits a niche market. But this story and this writer didn't fit that category. And in addition, after all the rejections, had done ZERO revision work. They kept trying that same story over and over again, even when it was clear it wasn't working.
That writer was pretty much the literary equivalent of Old Yeller. And by going the self-publishing route they were doing the literary equivalent of taking the net down and getting rid of the base and side lines. Things that are there for a reason.
When I asked why they hadn't even considered revisions, they'd said. "But it's MY story." Okay, fine, and Old Yeller's saying that each time she lets out a holler when her ball hits the net.
This economy has made it harder than ever to make a living in the creative arts. I know I've had to vary up my creative skills (along with my tennis shots) to stay in the game. I started out as a fine artist, then learned illustration, then picture book writing and then how to write a novel. And along the way, I learned how to teach, because baby still needs a pair of shoes even if art isn't selling that particular month or a book proposal didn't fly.
There's a saying that goes something like "Perseverance doesn't mean knocking on a door until someone let's you in. It means getting out there and knocking on a ton of doors and finding the ones that let you in. "
Don't be Old Yeller.
Vary your game.
Happy tennis - I mean writing.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Sunday, January 02, 2011
I am so behind in my becoming a billionaire schedule.
Even so, this past year I have felt pretty good about keeping to a writing schedule. I revised a novel, wrote and revised three picture books and finished another novel. That all felt pretty good. But this year I feel a little more pressure to do, well - something.
I'm hitting one of those "decade birthdays" this year. And I'm not so much concerned with the actual number of this particular birthday but with the fact that 10 years have actually gone by since the last decade birthday. It seems like the tritest thing to say, but it DID feel like yesterday. I came home from a birthday lunch to find a pigeon flopping around in my front yard. After spying the perfect pigeon imprint on the picture window it wasn't hard to figure out what happened. And it wasn't hard for my family to figure out that I would take the flying rat to the vet where they taped her injured wing and splinted her injured foot. I had to prop her in a box to keep her upright, earning her the name "I-lean".
In the past ten years, number one son has graduated from high school and college and is out on his own. We've moved from the house we raised him in and the neighborhood where everyone knows your name. Family dogs (and cats) have died. New ones (not cats) have been welcomed. We've mourned lost friends and made some wonderful new connections. The tree across the street is now taller than the power lines and is a reminder every day that time IS happening - whether we notice it or not.
I am NOT a New Year's resolution person. I put enough pressure on myself as it is. But I have been thinking about what I'd like to do before the next big old decade birthday rolls around.
I'd like to chill out a little bit more. Not a LOT - no way. "Nancy speed" works for me pretty well. But I'd like to be more patient while waiting for the world to catch up sometimes.
I want to remember to pay attention. I'm a visual person. I get distracted by all kinds of shiny things. But developing a filter as to what is IMPORTANT to pay attention to is probably a good thing.
I want to develop a consistent slice shot. And if there's anyone reading this that thinks this is a trivial pursuit (sorry, couldn't help myself there) then we have nothin' to talk about.
I want to continue to remember I'm lucky. Yes, I am behind on my billionaire schedule but I have spent my adult life pursuing a career that I oh so love. I draw pictures. I color. I make stuff up. And I get to share all the joy and wonder of that when I teach. Any of my students that are reading this - please note: writing and or coloring may not be the most lucrative vocation in the world, but I'm laughing all the way while strolling in the opposite direction of the bank.
Continue to love craft. Appreciate that in others' work, strive for it in my own.
Laugh. Laugh a lot. In the last ten years I've come a long way in appreciating the five minutes of happy that come along on a regular basis. Wanting more than that is a recipe for the opposite of laughter.
Thank you, everyone that's been there these past ten years and more. And I'm ready for the next decade. Rolling up the sleeves and putting on the big girl pants...
I have a schedule to meet.
Posted by Nancy Coffelt at 4:02 PM