I had the whole thing figured out perfectly. The post was almost completely written in my head on Monday. It was going to be a work of pure inspiration, and with a little luck, full of fancy clichés. I couldn’t wait; I just needed one tiny thing to happen before I started banging out the words on my laptop.
Earlier this weekend, the Puddinette and I were struggling to box up the last of the Christmas decorations while the Puddinpop watched a football game. Incidentally, football, well, pretty much any sport, really, has become his new obsession. He was watching an old ATP tennis match the other day because that was the only sporting event being televised at the time. So, yes, I’ve created a monster.
Anyway, as we were going about our tasks, he asked the Puddinette if she could guess what college he wanted to go to. She couldn’t, because he’s already settled on Indiana University, of all places. We’ll see how that ends up 10 years from now, but it’s his pick of the moment because it was my pick when I was a high school senior.
The thing is that I didn’t end up attending IU because when I saw the tuition, room, and board price tag for out-of-state students, I immediately dismissed it as possibility. It took about 10 minutes for that dream to fizzle into oblivion. I realize now that I should have tried a damned sight harder to make it happen; I should have let nothing stand in my way if that’s what I really wanted. But when I was younger, I was quick to make the right-turn-on-red down ye ole’ Path of Least Resistance.
It’s one of only a couple of things about my life I might change were I given an opportunity. That alone says a lot; I’m not often given to entertaining notions based on hindsight.
Anyway, so I chose to view that moment as a teachable one in my child’s life. I explained why I didn’t end up going there and how I should have tried much, much harder to achieve my goal. Never take ‘No’ for an answer, never give up, that sort of thing. Afterward, satisfied that I had done my fatherly duty by imparting some Parental Wisdom, we all carried on with our day. If it had been a movie, the two of us would have been walking beside a pond at dusk or playing catch on the old farm. Luckily I don’t live on the Lifetime Movie Network, so we went back to watching football instead.
Fast forward to Monday morning, when I found out that one of the bloggers I read regularly had put out a request for guest contributors over the weekend. In fact, five lucky individuals would be selected for fill-in duty! As soon I hit submit on the “application” e-mail, my brain instantly began constructing a Puddintopia post where I would wax eloquently on teaching my eldest son about the virtues of perseverance and then tie that in with a triumphant announcement that I’d been selected to write for a blog with millions of page views a month.
Sometime after that, I guess I figured that Ed McMahon would probably also be visiting from beyond the grave to deliver a big Publisher’s Clearing House check, a herd of Unicorns would take up residence in my backyard, and then we get our invitation to William and Kate’s wedding, along with comp’ed first class tickets.
Yeah, well, reality didn’t work out quite so well.
If you haven’t figured it out already, I wasn’t selected to be one of the five guest contributors. There were literally hundreds of applicants, and even I have to admit that your standard Puddintopia post is a long way from the basic theme of the other blog. Sure, I figured I’m versatile enough to handle a difference like that easily; I have complete faith in my ability to ramble incoherently on just about any topic that I deem worthy of interest. But I can see why that wouldn’t be readily apparent to another writer planning to turn over the keys to his own corner of the world.
So I was disappointed about it for a brief time yesterday, but I didn’t let it show. I knew from the beginning that it was more likely I would not get pick than I would. Still, telling yourself that rejection awaits just over the horizon isn’t at all the same thing as staring directly into its beady eyes.
To add insult to injury, I figured that my award-winning post on perseverance and triumph was spectacularly ruined.
But then I realized that I had nothing be disappointed about, and my post wasn’t any more ruined than Lindsey Lohan’s reputation. Well, wait; maybe that’s not the best
metaphor. But you get my point.
A year ago I wouldn’t have given such an invitation a moment’s consideration. Back then I was still pretending that I might want to grow up and be a writer someday, if one could magically do it overnight. Maybe by taking a pill or something, or wishing on surly leprechaun.
What a difference a year makes.
So, fine, I’m not going to suddenly have access to tens of thousands of new readers to dazzle with my special turn of phrase. But really, that’s ok. The commitment would have meant four weeks of dedication to something besides my novel and Puddintopia, and really, those should be my priorities, bump in daily traffic be damned. Plus, honestly, it wouldn’t have been real if I suddenly picked up a few thousand new readers because they followed me over from someplace else. They would never truly be here for Puddintopia, they’d be like that bonus half-pack of sample dryer sheets that came attached to your new laundry detergent bottle.
Granted, of course exposure is nice, but I want to build a base of rabid followers by writing things they enjoy reading and identify with enough to suggest to friends, etc.
The long and short of it is that I’ve worked pretty hard over the past year, and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. And I’m going to keep on working until I reach every single goal I’ve set and earned every last reward, on my own. No gifts, no freebies, no cheat codes.
Last weekend, I told the Puddinpop about perseverance and following our dreams. But the way we teach our children is by example. And if there’s one example I hope to set for mine, it’s to avoid the Path of Least Resistance whenever possible.
It rarely leads where you want to go, anyway.