I submitted the first twenty-five pages of my memoir to a literary agent about six weeks ago. Their website says to give them eight weeks to respond. I haven’t heard anything, and my mental radio station dial began to play KFKD (KFucKeD) last night. You know the station. It’s the one that tells you that you should have worked on the memoir another year before submitting it. The one that tells you that you’re not quite good enough to be a published author, and spirals down from there to the depths of maybe you’re not good enough to be anything.
I mean, who wants to read a book about a thirteen year old girl who gets sucked into a vampire cult in Salt Lake City, Utah(Mormon capital of the world) only to escape her controlling adult boyfriend to join a band of hippies dealing drugs and hitchhiking up the coast of the western United States, right? Long sigh. I would, but I love memoirs about people who have fought back and overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. My friends who have read it, say it’s great and an amazing story, but they’re my friends what else are they going to say?
Out on my run this morning I remembered a quote I read recently in Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, she was quoting from the movie Cool Runnings, which is about an Olympic bobsled team.
Their coach says, “If you are not enough before the gold medal, you will not be enough after.”
This echoed inside my head while I ran through the drizzling rain. Slowly, it became louder than KFKD, and I realized, there are a hundreds of literary agents out there. If this one decides not to respond, I will just move on to the next one, and then the next. If no one wants to pick up my memoir after a year, I will self-publish it. There are tons of people self-publishing now, and there are contests for the best self-published book each year.
I think this quote speaks volumes and articulates a foundational problem we see in many teens. And adults for that matter. We spend so much of our time and energy striving to be better than others, sometimes at things that don’t even matter to us personally.
My youngest son, Skyler (13), struggles with this in a profound way. Strapped with anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and multiple learning disorders, he constantly compares himself with “normal” kids and in his mind never measures up. He also compares himself to his honor roll socially adept older brother. I constantly reassure him that he is an intelligent, compassionate, and determined person and that he just needs to “run his own race” and stop competing with everyone around him. But that is easier said than done, because most of the world looks at him through those same lenses comparing him to those around him.
I can practically see KFKD playing in his mind, and it shatters my heart. This weekend I am secretly putting vinyl letter on his bedroom walls that say, Brave, Strong, Courageous, and Smart. I want these words to be his the moment he opens his eyes each morning, and the last thoughts in his mind each night.
The book I am working on now is called, Reaching for Sky. It’s about Skyler’s and my journey through his childhood, dealing with his explosive and wretched emotions, and struggles to make the world see the greatness that is in him. As I said, I love stories about people who have fought back and overcome insurmountable odds.