Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

The Impossible Dream

Every once in a while I read a nationally published book and think, “I could have written that. In fact I could have written it better than the author.” It’s a good feeling knowing that you are as talented as some of the big boys and girls. Then there are the books I read and think, “Wow! How did that author ever come up with that phrase? I couldn’t create a character like that in a hundred years of trying. Why did I ever even consider the possibility that I could be a nationally published writer? It’s hopeless.”

Those are the days that make me want to give up writing completely and take up something a little easier, like, say, fishing. Fishing is great because it doesn’t matter if you are good enough to catch anything or not. Just sitting by a lake watching your bobber float on the still water, or watching your fly drift lazily past on the river is totally great. I am almost never frustrated, depressed, or demoralized while fishing.

The thing is, I learned a lesson early on from my mother. When I was eleven, I wanted a job. My Mom told me to go out to local businesses and ask them to hire me. I ended up at a bakery that paid me a buck and a half an hour off the books to wash big metal baking sheets. To this day, I can’t stand the smell of bakeries, but I liked the money. For a few years I delivered papers; then I sold newspaper subscriptions.

When I was fifteen I saw a job ad in the paper. It was for a mall Santa Claus and it paid seven dollars and fifty cents an hour! I couldn’t believe anyone would pay that kind of money to be a Santa. My Mom told me to call and apply for the job. Now imagine a fifteen year-old kid who is about 5’6” and weighs all of about one-hundred pounds applying to be a Santa. Crazy, right? Except when I called, the only question the lady asked was if I was good with kids. I told her I had three younger brothers and sisters and she hired me over the phone. Little did I know that the local high school cheer leaders all came to have their pictures taken on Santa’s lap. Va, va, va, voom!

When I was sixteen I got a job in a French restaurant as a cook. I’ve been a newspaper reporter. A CEO of an Internet company. The guy inside a Fotomat booth. Various fast food jobs. A plumber. Newspaper publisher. A software salesman. VP of Marketing for an international computer company. A technical writer. Circulation manager. Leak detector. Janitor. Seminary teacher (unpaid.) Computer store owner. Army Reserves. Computer parts distributor. And author.

I’ve developed TV commercials. Done interviews with everything from Rolling Stone to PC Magazine. I’ve been on TV and radio interviews. I’ve traveled to Singapore, Germany, the UK, Mexico, Canada, and Taiwan on business. I sold a seven month-old company for $105 million and watched the deal fall apart the next day when the NASDAQ crashed. I’ve had my arms covered with raw sewage and I’ve made a pretty decent hot apple crepe.

All this with no college degree and not all that much common sense. Which is not to downplay the value of a college degree. In fact I am envious as heck of Rob having the chance to get his Masters. Many of the paths I’ve walked would have been much easier with a college degree. And it’s not to say that I am anything special. In fact it’s quite the contrary.

But someone has to do all of these jobs. From the outside it may seem like the opportunity you want is out of your reach. That the people on the inside are so much smarter and more knowledgeable than you. It’s easy to think you just don’t have what it takes. But once you get through the doors, you find that for the most part people are guessing as much as you. They don’t have all the answers. Even Stephen King writes an occasional clunker and Grisham doesn’t always know what his readers want.

The people who don’t succeed are the people who don’t try. And sometimes the people who do succeed or not necessarily the very best, but the ones who keep trying and never quit. So when I read someone who’s a really great writer, I just have to tell myself that some day I might write something that will make someone else go, “Wow, how did he come up with that?” And hopefully instead of giving up they will be inspired to creating something amazing of their own. All it takes is not giving up.

As an aside, let me give Julie's new Eagle Scout/Duty to God book a big plug. Everyone with a son who hasn't yet earned these awards should have this book. It's incredible!


At 10/17/2006 9:51 AM, Blogger John Ferguson said...

Jeff, your post reminded me of a saying: "It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down; It's how many times you get back up that matters." When I first heard that it sounded cool and inspired me. Then I went through a time in life where that saying seemed trite and too simplistic. Now, I still feel it is simplistic, but it is also profoundly true. If all we do is stand back up every time we are knocked down, in the end, we will be standing. I have also learned that I am most susceptible to inferior feelings when I am "laying down," so the faster I can "jump to my feet" the better.

I also think it is great how many of our sayings have this as a theme. You just have to "get back on the horse" and "try, try again" and one of my personal favorites, "If you find yourself going through hell, for heaven's sake don't stop there."

Great post.


At 10/17/2006 10:37 AM, Blogger RobisonWells said...

Thanks Jeff, I needed to hear that today.

At 10/17/2006 1:00 PM, Blogger Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Great post Jeff, as usual. You're obviously as multi-talented as I always thought you were! (Santa, though? Wow.)

And thanks for the plug on my new book! Right back at you with your new one Dead on Arrival. When I read it I thought, how did he come up with that? Seriously, I really did!

At 10/17/2006 7:00 PM, Blogger KB said...

I, too, loved Dead on Arrival. Great job.

At 10/18/2006 9:27 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Oh, Jeff, that's perfect coming from you! I must have thought, "How does he DO that?" fifty times while reading Dead on Arrival -- and I've read it twice! Can't wait for the next book! In the meantime, how about another sneak-peak at your soon-to-be national bestseller? (Bandit is dying to know what happens to the dog. I'm more concerned about the school teacher myself.)

At 10/18/2006 4:43 PM, Blogger FHL said...

I highly recommend that you not read Harlan Coben's With One Look if you want to avoid that How did he do that? feeling. I remember just being awestruck at the end of how on earth anyone could put together such a twisted, convoluted mess and have it wrap up so nicely.

I have the utmost respect for all of you that have successfully written books. I'd like to join the cadre myself someday, hard to picture, though. =)

At 10/19/2006 2:12 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Or Possession. (Hope I got that title right.) Story within a story within a story -- with Browningesque poetry thrown in to make it interesting. Wow.


Post a Comment

<< Home