When I look back, I can honestly say that I have loved to write since I learned how to write.
I remember being in middle school, walking around with a big maroon folder, jammed packed with dog eared lined paper. It was a murder mystery, I think. But I remember carrying it outside of my backpack just so people could ask me what it was. I loved the feeling of being able to say,
“This is my manuscript.” I was eleven. The word “story” was for ten year olds. The word “manuscript” meant you knew something about the publishing world. REAL writers called their unpublished works “manuscripts” and that’s what I clearly was with my pencil and bad spelling. I was a REAL writer.
I later learned the subtle truth that if you go around with bright red converse sneakers, stirrup pants and puff paint kitten shirts on, touting that you are working on a “manuscript”, your pool of friends will being to drain or not fill up at all.
Eleven year olds don’t get it.
I grew up, kept the Converse sneakers, lost the stirrup pants and the kitten shirts, even the “manuscript”, but I never lost that dream of writing.
As you get older, you actually find that there are real opportunities to do the things that you love, not just dream about them.
You just need the courage to try.
It was my second year of college when I took a leap and really tried.
For months, I had been following a competition on the NBC website. They were looking for new comedy writers. If you sent in a spec script to a show that was currently airing and it past all of the hurdles, you were accepted to a fellowship program in California, where you would get the chance to write for television and maybe even develop your own show.
It was an amazing thing to lay awake and dream of at night. Me, little maroon folder “manuscript” girl actually doing what she wanted to do when she was eleven, tell stories and get paid to do it.
The dream was so fantastic in my mind, that I shirked all of my school work for about a month and banged out a spec script for my newest television obsession “The Office”. I was working while in school and so, I would get home from work, cram some food in my mouth, head to class and then stay up until all hours of the night writing and polishing what I prayed would be my ticket to California and clicking the keyboard keys for NBC.
Finally, at the end of the month, the start date for the competition came, I hole punched my script, put brads in the top and bottom and for a long time, simply stared at what was in my hands.
It felt amazing. It looked so real with it’s courier font and brads. Someone in California was going to be reading this, maybe someone in California would love it as much as I did.
I put it in a huge manila envelope, stuffed all of my hopes and dreams in their with it, paid the postage and sent it on its way.
I could stop right here. You know how this ended.
Right now I’m writing to you from a small two bedroom apartment in Vermont while my two kids take their naps.
I never made it to NBC. Just this year was my first time even going to the west coast for a 12K with my sister.
But, you know what I do have? I have a rejection notice from NBC, thanking me for my participation and my script. It has real NBC letterhead on it and I’m more proud of that than maybe even my college diploma.
I tried to take the path less traveled. I tried. When I pass there will be that rejection letter with the rest of all of my belongings. My kids will know I tried. Someone in California opened up that manila folder, someone who works for NBC read my work.
It was my best failure ever.
Keep trying out there everyone. Gravity always tries to pull things down, it’s easy to go with gravity. Gravity is natural law.
But I firmly believe it’s those of us who push that boulder up the hill despite gravity, wind, weather and people telling us it can’t be done, who will come out the best. Maybe there will be no amazing view once we make it to the top, but our muscles will be stronger and we can look back down that hill and see how far we’ve come.
And for those of you still walking with your maroon folder “manuscript”, I salute you.