When the Nail’s Too Weak, Grab a Spike

It’s a common practice for me that, on dates, I try to ask a variety of questions. I try to make it like a game, filled with questions that are easy and fun to answer. For example, I might ask what Hogwarts house a person would place themselves in or what superpowers they would choose to have, if any. It’s a lighthearted way to break that anxious tension and an easy way to learn more about the other person. Do they answer right away or prefer to wait, weighing all the options before committing themselves to an answer? Do they get excited and want to participate, posing their own questions to show their interest? And do they ask what my answer would be or expose themselves by never asking me a question about myself?

One question that I always ask is this: if you could pursue any career, which would pay you enough to live off of where there’s no risk of failure, what would you choose? It follows the same vein as “what would your dream job be?” without the shackles of reality weighing you down. It’s a question I enjoy asking and the answers I’ve gotten have been beautiful and varied: I’ve met aspiring speed boat detailers, horticulturists, and even a boy who wanted to run and cook in his very own diner. You learn a lot about someone when you pose a question like that–you get an insight into their dreams and aspirations, their hobbies and secret passions. For me, my answer has always been the same since childhood: if I could do anything, be anything, I would be an author.

It makes sense then that I graduated from school with a degree in English and Writing. Even back then, in the midst of not knowing what I wanted to do, my mind and heart settled themselves on that harbored aspiration and set the course for the path I’m on now. I left my job at Epic Systems, for those that don’t know, in order to return home and pursue that dream. On the day I debated leaving my job, I received an email from the Epic Systems writing group. Its contents spoke about an opportunity for aspiring authors to submit a working manuscript to an outside source for consideration. The prize? A connection with a literary agent and the potential for publication. So, taking it as a sign from God, I turned in my resignation and decided to pursue that dream I had always talked about.

When the deadline came only a month later, I sent in my 20,000 word manuscript and breathed a sigh of relief. I waited on bated breath for the next month, checking my inbox every day for an email from the publishing house. When the winner announcement took place on the first day in July, my name was not among them. At first, I’ll admit I was crestfallen: I had worked hard in that month, staying up long nights as I started from nothing and wrote to reach the word count. But as the next few days came and went, I perused my manuscript and was somewhat glad to have a chance to revise it: while it was good, it did not yet reflect the powerful message I knew existed within the novel. The writing, although reflective of an English major, did not yet reflect the personal style and strength of a polished 3rd draft.

As the days rolled on and people asked about the results of the contest, I received a lot of encouragement. J.K. Rowling, whose books helped to define an entire generation, had received loads of rejections for Harry Potter before it was seen for the masterpiece it was. Stephen King, one of the most renowned writers of our time, had experienced rejection in his writing career as well: by age fourteen, the pile of rejection slips had grown so thick that the nail on his wall could not support them. But he didn’t give up. Instead, King “replaced the nail with a spike and kept on writing.” I am, by no account, comparing myself or my writing to that of Rowling or King but the message behind their experiences is one that myself and many other dreamers share. So don’t lose hope: keep writing or drawing or dancing or singing! Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire because one day, be it near or far in the future, someone may look back on your story and find the inspiration needed to write their own.

Stay safe and hopeful!

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