Let me start by saying ‘Their No doesn’t mean anything to me.’ I know that’s an odd way to start but I’ll explain. To me, all someone else’s ‘no’ says is that it is a no for that person only. That person doesn’t speak for the entirety of all mankind. And to me their ‘no’ means that person is missing out on something great, something epic even. I know somebody else will see and value what I bring to the table. I know everybody can’t see greatness, even the ones that are paid to find it. Some people are so stuck in the here in now they can’t see the future. Why search for the next great story about ‘x’ and not the next story. Be comforted in the fact that almost every great artist, in every genre, of every generation was turned down or away before someone gave them a chance. Before someone believed in, or at least took a chance on them. Hopefully I won’t have to wait until after I’m dead for that to happen for me. But if it doesn’t happen, then I’ll have to do it myself. Those are the plans going forward. But back to the point. I know I have that something that can’t be quantified. I wish everyone could have that feeling of self-assurance even in the face of mountains and storms and rejections and turn-downs. It is an amazing euphoria at times to be able to smile though it all.
I consider myself very fortunate. A lot of people have to find themselves. I never had to do that. I knew early on who I was and what I was about. I knew I wanted to learn and I was quietly curious. I knew I would not be dictated to. I’m no fortune teller though, so no I didn’t (and still don’t) know where my future lies but I will bet on me each and every time. We are, all of us a culmination of our own personal experiences. That’s what makes us who we are. That’s also what makes us different. I am completely different than my brother and we grew up in the same house. We made different decisions and we took different routes. So I understand how people have different views. Because they have had different paths. What am I right now? I’m a man with a day job writing words for the love of writing which will hopefully one day allow me to quit the day job to continue writing more thought provoking yet fantastical words. (I know it’s a run on sentence but I like run on sentences. I know I shouldn’t but I do. The shame.)
I’m going to tell you a quick story. I’m born and raised in Philadelphia, Pa, Philly. I vividly remember as a young man growing up teachers telling students that they would never amount to anything. I felt sorry for those kids. I even talked to a few and told them to ignore the teacher. That Mr. or Mrs. so and so was just having a bad day and they didn’t know what they were talking about (I probably said it in more colorful words a kid shouldn’t be using). Then it happened to me in a slightly less overt way. I had an English teacher call me a liar to my face. No she didn’t hide her disdain. I’ll never forget, seventh grade LaBrum Middle School. I wrote a book report on Abbott & Costello’s ‘Who’s on First’. The next day the teacher handed it back and told me she wouldn’t accept it because it was a television skit and it wasn’t written down in any book. I told her it was and her words to me were “You’re lying”. Now let’s think about that for a minute. The skit was done in the 40’s. This was the late 80’s. Why was it so inconceivable to this woman that it had been written down by then? I gave her the title of the book and whatever other references was required when I handed in the report but she refused to believe me. She wanted to see the book. I was the only student in the class that she didn’t believe. But I knew I was right. I knew what I did. I didn’t need her belief, nor her acceptance. To this day I am still the same way. That’s why the no of a stranger means nothing to me except to keep working. I would love your support but if you don’t give it I don’t care or dwell on it, I just move on. I never did produce the book as she asked (my stubborn twelve year old self didn’t think I should have to) and I still got an A in her class. Did I give her reason not to believe me? Not one iota. Do I believe there was more behind her disbelief, of course I do but that’s a story for another time.
Now you may be asking why did I share that story? Because that was the first time a person in authority told me no when I believed they shouldn’t have. When someone told me what I did was unacceptable even though what I did was A+ worthy. I learned at that moment that everyone can’t accept greatness even when it’s right in front of their face. Some people, for whatever reason are blinded to it. That teacher was the gatekeeper to my grade, to my future. But I had to persevere through, in spite of her and whatever her reasons were. This publishing business has its gatekeepers also. You call them literary agents and book publishers. They will tell you no. A lot of them will tell you no. But you can’t give up when you get their rejection. Like that teacher I just tell myself they are missing out on greatness. This brings me to my ultimate point. You can’t let the outside dictate who you are. If you are a writer write. If it’s in your soul do it. Do it in the dark. It’s nothing but preparation for when the light gets shone on you.
Now I’m not saying I’m the greatest writer that ever lived. I’m not even saying those agents are publishers were wrong for saying no. They are not that teacher. What I am saying is that I have to keep going. That means I have to keep writing. Keep improving. Keep learning. Keep expanding. I have to be ready when one says yes.
I was asked recently why I write. And I gave the person a lot of answers and they were all true.
1. To voice my opinion, even if in the format of a fictional story.
2. People always tell you to write your dreams down because then they become goals. My dreams were to write something everyone would love so every time I write I give myself that opportunity.
3. I hope my words reach someone and they make a difference, even if it after I’m gone.
4. I think I was blessed with a gift and I believe it is a gift that is meant to be shared.
5. It is just not in me to ever stop chasing a dream, I can’t give up.
But as I sit and think about it there is another reason, a more selfish sixth reason.
6. For me it is a way to calm the over hyper activeness that is my brain. My mind is always on go. So I write. Allowing the words to spill out helps to calm my mind and soul. We do so much when we write. We solve puzzles, we’re creative, we ask the hard questions, we’re introspective and questioning the universe all at the same time. My mind thrives on that kind of multi-multi-tasking activity.
My last question for you is what dictate’s your life? I’m not asking about who. I’m asking you to ask yourself what drives you. What do you want? What would you love to do? What would you still do, if you were told no?
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