the random golden egg
My mother tells this story better than I do. But when I think about my publishing career, about the trials and errors that have brought me here, I sometimes recall that random golden egg from my childhood. So here's what I remember:
It was a clear day in April. We were in the car, on our way to a local park. The community Easter egg hunts had already come and gone, but regardless, I told my mother, "I'm going to find a golden egg today."
She sighed. Even back then, my whims made her weary. I was the type of kid who just wanted things. I wanted to write song lyrics for Britney Spears. I wanted to dig for dinosaur bones in the backyard. I wanted a red-and-green striped hat, like the one Winnie the Pooh wore in a straight-to-VHS holiday special. I wanted to scuba dive and swim with dolphins. I wanted things that weren't accessible or practical. And yet, impracticality was never a strong enough deterrent to distract me.
Usually, Mom found ways to appease me. She let me write songs for Britney, on papers carefully extracted from my Lisa Frank notebooks. She bought visual encyclopedias about the things that fascinated me (dinosaurs, dolphins, etc.). And in a few special cases, she (literally) pulled strings for me. (She knitted a red-and-green striped hat herself. I still have it to this day.)
But the golden egg? There was nothing she could do about that. There were no eggs to hide, and there wouldn't be any to find. She had no choice but to brace herself for my disappointment.
This park was huge. It had a playground for the kids, a baseball diamond in the distance, plus a heavily wooded area. While Mom supervised my little sister, I took off through the forest.
I searched everywhere. I dug through the leafy bushes. I inspected around the tree roots jutting from the ground. I climbed the bark-ridged trunks and branches as high as I dared to go. I kept looking, until my sister grew bored at the playground and came to join me. I kept looking, until Mom started checking her watch, anxious to get going.
And then, I reached a tree at the edge of the woods. In that tree, there was a small hollow. In that hollow, I found my gleaming golden egg.
I grabbed it and went screaming back to my mother, waving my prize around in triumph. She stared back at me, slack-jawed.
Fast-forward eighteen years or so: Mom and I are seated at the dining room table, and I'm telling her about my publication schedule. It's been a few days since I landed my first book deal, and I'm explaining everything that will happen next. And out of nowhere, she asks me, "Do you remember that golden egg? The one you said you'd find, right before you did? My God, this whole situation is just like that."
The short version of this story: My mother is a deeply profound person, and I had a weird psychic moment once in my youth.
The long version: I'm impractical. And I'm stubborn, in my own way. I always have been, woefully and incurably so. But it's actually okay, because if there's one thing I've learned as an author, it's that impracticality and stubbornness should be listed as job qualifications. The way other positions seek people with "great attention to detail" and "a consistent positive attitude." (Writing requires these things, too. Just saying.)
I spent years trying to break into the publishing industry. I queried three manuscripts to no avail. I went back and forth with dozens of literary agents. Eventually, I switched to a different email address, because the heaps of rejections in my first inbox were becoming too depressing to look at. I created a Twitter account, and started entering online pitch contests. Shiny new ideas marched into my head, and I fell out of love with my own manuscripts.
Going through the publishing process is a lot like venturing out on a solo egg hunt, for a specific golden egg that might not even exist.
Except you're no longer a child, and this is no longer an afternoon whim with low stakes in the grand scheme of your life. This is a hunt that could leave you stranded in the woods for years. It's a hunt that can't be won with skill or determination alone; it requires luck and timing, perhaps more than anything.
I'm incredibly lucky. I've somehow managed to snag a golden egg—not once, but twice—in my life. And the whole reason why I'm sharing this story is because I know other writers and dreamers and impractical folks might need to hear it. It isn't easy to wander through the woods alone. Even if you're surrounded by loved ones and a wide support network, it will sometimes feel as though you're the only person out here. Like there's a big-picture idea in your head, that no one else can see.
There will also be moments when you'll lose sight of your own big-picture visions. Imposter syndrome will settle deep into your bones. And you'll think to yourself, "Wow. I have no clue what I'm doing."
And maybe you'll make some mistakes along the way. Maybe you'll search in all the wrong places. Maybe you refreshed your email just now, only to find another rejection. Maybe it's from an agent who initially replied with eager exclamation points, and now they've reverted back to apologetic periods. And the truth is, this has become such a pattern, you've grown to expect it. At this rate, your precious book will never get published.
So now, here you are. I'm sure you went through an intense Internet rabbit hole to get here. How many tabs are open on your browser? (I've got seven, lol!) And if you've read through this entire rambling passage, I suppose it's possible we're kindred spirits. In which case, I hope I've said something to make you feel a little better. I hope you know that I'm rooting for you. These woods are vast and disorienting, and it probably seems like everyone else has already found what they were looking for.
But remember: This drive exists within you for a reason. You have a story to tell, and it will be told, one way or another.