Sunday, June 13, 2010

Risking The Blood

Boy did I stink on this weeks assignments. I barely managed to keep up with my class’s assignments. So, here is what I learned, though.

Coach John Wooden passed away a week ago this past Friday. He coached basketball at the college level for nearly 30 years, lived nearly 100. And just listening to all of the comments and interviews and tributes this past week and two days, I was struck by what a genuinely decent, kind and thoughtful person he was. As a coach, he won ten national championships in twelve years with UCLA, a feat never likely to be equaled, much less surpassed, but most of the comments and interviews and tributes focused on his accomplishments off the court. As a human being.

So what does that have to do with my journey toward publication? Not a lot, I suppose, outwardly. But looking at Coach Wooden’s life through the eyes of others holds a mirror up to my face and shows me the kind of person I would like to be, and the kind of person I’m just not.

He spend 54 years with his wife Nellie, before spending another 25 without her after she died. If I married today, and stayed married fifty-four years, I would be nearly 107. Many of Coach Wooden’s sayings have become platitudes. Like “Be quick, but don’t hurry.” “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” And, from the basketball coach, my favorite, “Love is the most important thing.” As my friends will say, my most oft repeated line is, “I’ll have one more Chardonnay.”

Many of his actions should become platitudes. One of his last requests was for a good shave because he wanted to look his best when he next saw his late wife Nellie. Wow!

On the other hand, though, I wouldn’t be able to tell the stories I want to tell had I experienced that kind of life or any other, for that matter. My stories come out of the life I’ve lived. Then again, no one has shown interest in publishing my stories so far. So there’s the real fear, isn’t it? That no one cares. That I’m that tree in the middle of nowhere that no one has ever seen.

Do I exist?

So I ask, are my stories interesting/compelling/poignant enough to present by the publishing world to the reading public? My answer is I think so … I hope so. But can a writer really know until the public sees his or her stories? Until it chews them up and, either swallows them or spits them out?

I want a chance to find out.

So, Coach Wooden wouldn’t have shied away from submitting manuscripts had he manuscripts to submit. I haven’t submitted in several weeks. Why am I lollygagging around and not jumping in and submitting to at least agents even though I set myself the task?

Actually, Coach did shy away from submitting once. After his wife died, on the 21st of every month (the day of the month she died), he visited her grave the went home and wrote her a love letter. The sports writer Rick Reilly suggested fifteen years after that he and Coach publish those letters as a testament to love. Coach finally told Reilly, in tears, “I can’t. It’s too soon.”

In other words, it hurt. And that was when he had a guarantee to publish.

Wow! Despite my protestations to the contrary, each rejection takes a couple of drops of blood out of me. Weakens me just a little. Makes me wince a lot. So Mutiny on the Bounty last week really was important … even more important that even I was willing to admit to myself at the time. It let the wounds heal from the last round of rejections.

So, plunging in means risking more drops of blood. So be it. I begin a seven day weekend this next Wednesday. I’m risking the blood this time.

I mentioned my favorite Coach Wooden quote earlier, but another of his has haunted me all week. “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” I have been in the same routine for several years now. Some circumstances have caused some change. But I think I need some all out changes in a number of different areas of my life. More on that later, because, I’m really not sure yet what those changes might be. Rearranging my apartment might be an option. At least a good spring cleaning. And in the next few days, I’ll let my stories call me to them. They always have. They always will. And when they do, I return to them with all I have.

Oh! One more detail … Coach Wooden passed away 100 years and 1 day after William Sydney Porter … better known as the master short story writer O. Henry.

Assignments this week: Keep up with the Wayward Writers assignments. Clean my apartment. Allow my stories to call me, then heed the call. ONE submission to an agent. We’ll start there then see how it goes. But, I’ve got to risk the blood. I've got to!

I’ll let y’all know next week how I did.

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Be sure to send some of your blood my way.
    And if you need anything, I'm home now and ready to receive :-)