The Art of Being Intractable
When I was five my Kindergarten teacher pulled my mother aside to tell her it was a damn shame her charming daughter was so retarded; she would probably never learn to read and certainly would never be able to write.
What the teacher failed to take into account was the fact that we come from extraordinarily stubborn stock, my mother and I. Immediately Mom began studying child development and brain patterns, researching everything she could about learning disabilities. She convinced me that my challenges were actually a gift—the ability to look upon the world through new, fresh eyes. I wasn’t stupid or weird, she told me. I simply marched to the beat of a different drummer.
The real gift I’d been given was a mother who refused to see limitations. She taught me to love a challenge and never give up. She taught me to dream bigger and hold tighter than common rationality would recommend.
These lessons came in real handy when I decided I wanted to be a writer. Not because I couldn’t tell the difference between a 3 and an E. Or a p and a q. Or an S and a 5. Or the fact that letters and numbers rarely had the courtesy to hold still long enough for me to make sense of them. I figured all that out by learning to memorize patterns. (A three rarely appears in a word, for example.)
Nope. Mom’s lessons on perseverance came in handy because writing—and the quest to be published—quite frankly, was the toughest challenge I ever took on. Tougher even than pushing out an eleven pound baby.
I wanted to be published, be an author, so bad I could taste it. But that brass ring seemed always just out of reach.
There were times, more than I can count, when I thought I was nuts for wanting such a thing or hoping for such a thing or dreaming of such a crazy crazy thing. There were times—when I found an idiotic mistake in a manuscript I’d read a hundred fricking times—when I thought, perhaps that Kindergarten teacher had been right. Doubt lived with me, every day. Steeped itself in my teapot. Soaked in my bath.
But I’d remember Mom, pushing me forward, encouraging me, daring me to try, and I’d keep going. And I’d roll another sheet into the typewriter (metaphorically speaking).
I read voraciously and when I wasn’t analyzing someone else’s prose, I was writing. Composing. Plotting. Experimenting. Creating. I wrote an epic fantasy novel (topping out at 175,000-words), a sci-fi horror, an animated children’s book, a middle grade about a dyslexic dragon, women’s fiction, men’s fiction, screenplays and romances by the score. None of them sold. Once I discovered it, a steamy Delilah Devlin in fact, erotic romance became my drug of choice.
Probably not what my mother intended, but there you have it.
I started entering contests. Started winning. Before long, I was addicted. Ironically, this didn’t increase my confidence as a writer, because I never sold, and all that really mattered to me was selling. But contests were fun. They made me feel like a writer. Like I was doing something.
I guess that’s all it takes sometimes. Doing something.
If you read the Secret (and didn’t we all?), you understand that concrete action can set up ripples in the universe. And even if it doesn’t, it’s nice to think that it does.
It’s nice to think that doing something, does something.
And it does. It gives us a sense of power. A sense of control over the universe, or at least our tiny corner of it. And after a while, those little somethings we do in pursuit of our dreams pile up. Gain momentum.
I entered hundreds of contests in my career and, to the chagrin of my fellow contest whores, won a lot. (Sold not). But it only takes one. One winning lottery ticket, one dream come true. One editor or agent who likes the order in which you throw words onto paper.
In November of 2011, I got an e-mail from an editor at Ellora’s Cave asking, very politely, if she could please acquire my book, which she had received as the result of the Novella’s Need Love Too contest sponsored by the Celtic Hearts chapter of Romance Writers of America. (I said yes.) In December she bought the second book and in January, another. In February she snapped up the fourth.
Maybe my life is destined to be a feast or famine proposition.
I’m okay with that.
I walk away with another lesson. A new lesson: Sometimes mulishly pursuing your dreams feels like a folly. And sometimes, just every so often, it doesn’t. Every so often, dreams do come true.
And perhaps every so often is enough.
As long as you don’t quit. Never give up. Never surrender.
Sabrina York’s very first novel ever comes out April 4, 2012 from Ellora’s Cave. It’s a hot & sexy erotic romance called Adam’s Obsession. Read an excerpt and check out the awesome cover at www.SabrinaYork.com. You can follow Sabrina on Twitter @sabrina_york.