According to family legend, I read my first words when I was two-years-old in the grocery store checkout lane on the cover of a black and white tabloid with an alien baby on the cover. Apparently it was obvious that I was reading because I said, “Mommy, what’s an alien baby?”
And a lifelong love and hate of reading began as simple as that.
When I was younger, reading was more simple. I would just read whatever was in front of me–be it a book, magazine, or shampoo bottle–and be happy to be doing it. I read above grade level, and introduced myself to some of the best authors to have ever lived. My sixth grade paper on 1984 was well-lauded, though in retrospect probably a bit short-sighted. When I read Les Miserables (at the time I pronounced it “less miserable”) I found a deep connection to the characters. And when all else fails, there was The Baby Sitter’s Club books to keep me company.
And of course, as you might have guessed, this love of reading led naturally into a love of writing. And boy, do I love writing. Making words appear on the page when there were none before has always filled me with a great deal of joy, and sometimes other people have enjoyed what I wrote as well. Then one day, I thought my dream came true. Zabet and I were contracted to write a book, later to be called Anticraft: Knitting, Beading, and Stitching for the Slightly Sinister.
Boy howdy, talk about an ego trip. And I rode high on it for about a year. Which was, coincidentally, just long enough for the thing to be printed. About that time, I started to doubt that I would ever be published for my prose rather than my ability to help pick out cool craft patterns, and about that time I quit reading. I liked to blame my lack of reading on how very busy I was, how little time there was, how there wasn’t any good fiction out anymore . . . but really, I was just jealous.
What did those writers have that I didn’t? Why wasn’t any of my creative in the literary journals or on the shelves at the bookstores? In a brilliant moment of realization, I figured out that it was probably because I wasn’t submitting anything.
Submit stuff? Check.
Then came the rejections, and wow did they come. Hard and fast and with no explanation, every story I ever submitted was rejected. As the cool kids say: Burn.
Slowly, I recovered from the heartache of my rough drafts (i.e., my babies) being rejected, and I began to read again. I figured if I just read enough, maybe I would learn how to write, and then I could join the elite, the proud, the published! But the more I read, the less confident I am in my own words. What could little old me have to say that is as relevant, as valid, as all the amazing authors who ARE getting published out there?
I’m not sure. I’m really just not sure.
But it makes it hard to read. It provides an actual, honest-to-goodness ache in my heart to realize I may never be as good as my favorite authors …
But that’s okay.
Because I will keep trying.
And I will keep reading.
And even if I’m never good enough, smart enough, or relevant enough to be published, at least I will have read some wonderful words along the way.