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Take a Lick, Keep on Ticking

June 16, 2010

Notable News from a Year Ago, June 16, 2009: Success at the Pitch Conference… but not totally.

What a difference a day makes.

Last entry, feeling as if a frog had pissed on my writing dream, I wrote a despondent entry about scratching my plans for The Twin Paradox and moving my efforts instead to a rewrite of Michael’s House that I’m calling The Inner Limit.  Today, some three days removed, this entry will be decidedly more cheerful, and more thoughtful as well, and the reason is simple: an editor at the conference gave me his email address and told me to send him the manuscript.

Before I get to the specifics, I should first tell you that I went into the Sunday morning pitch session as confident as the day before.  Writing in this journal Saturday night helped restore my confidence the way writing throughout my life has helped during periods of setback and disappointment.  Writing is more than a creative process to me, there’s also a measure of healing that occurs when I put my words on paper, when I transform emotion into elegant thought.  As I soon as I finished the last entry, in fact, I felt completely healed, and ready for another row in the ring with self-doubt.  Writing, at least to me, is like the helm of Jesus’s robe: All I need do for salvation is reach out and touch it.

Competitiveness plays a factor, too, I’m sure.  Though I’ve never been the trash-talking, finger-in-your face guy, there was always a quiet fire inside of me.  I think some of it has to do with a similar affliction among younger siblings, an issue I refer fondly to, at least in my case, as LBS: Little Brother Syndrome.  I may exhibit all those other typical competitive traits, but you better believe at the end of the day I’ve always believed I was going to be first and you were going to be second — in school, in sports, in love, in anything.  The way I saw it, I had already been born second in my family; damn if I was going to be second to anyone else.

So it wasn’t too surprising when, after I had written my entry and watched a little of the NBA Finals with Dwight Howard, [2009] NBA leader in blocks and Defensive Player of the Year, that I found myself thinking about resiliency, and how it is not only crucial to dream-achievement, but in life as well.  There’s a great line in Rocky Balboa, which aside from its weaknesses as a movie franchise that won’t die, has always, always been about the importance of grit and determination over skill.  In a dramatic conversation with his son, who doesn’t want Rocky to get back in the ring, Rocky says (paraphrased): “Life’s about how hard of a hit you can take and still stand up again.  And trust me, no one in the world is ever going to hit you harder than life’s gonna hit you.  No one.”

Amen, Brother Stallone.  Amen.

I’ve been hit so hard by life that even I don’t know why I talk like this.

Some of life’s hardest swings are the character building food that has shaped me into the person I am today.  From piano to sports, and even in my love life, I’ve taken blows across the chin.  Falling down, I’ve found, is simply the +1 Game of Life.  When you fall down, even if you get knocked down, the game is even: 0-0; 2348-2348.  By standing up again you always get +1.  You always win.

The disappointment of Saturday was another swing from life, a vicious left cross that looked like several of the haymakers that I’ve encountered over the last seven years trying to do this writing thing.  And, truthfully, some of the pain didn’t have the noblest of origins.  (The truth is I thought I was better than eighty-percent of the people in my group, and knew I had been at it longer).

But I got another chance on Sunday and as I have been doing all my life, I was confident, poised, and this time an editor at Random House, although he said The Twin Paradox might be too sci-fi for his tastes, asked to see the manuscript.

Now for the second hurdle in this publishing maze: What to do about the fact that The Twin Paradox isn’t finished since the topic didn’t come up while the editor and I talked.  It’s exactly the kind of dilemma I wanted to have when I went to the NY Pitch Conference, but now that it’s here — like a lot of things in life — shit, I’m reconsidering.

Maybe pitching a book that is less than 30% finished wasn’t such a good idea.

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