I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on what it would take for me to consider myself a success. It could be the less than overwhelming response to my last book or the approach of a large numbered birthday, but there has been an unusual amount of navel gazing. If I don’t figure this out shortly, I’m likely to run into something hard and its going to hurt. I don’t do a lot of the angst-filled woe-is-my-life thing generally, so it could just be that I’m not that good at it, but I can’t figure out exactly when or how I could get to the exact spot where I nod my head sagely, decide that I have made it and have a lengthy lie down. If it’s money earned, how much? If it’s book sales, how many? There’s really no end point. Number of books published? What did the last one do?
Lying down is something that I do well (which could be another reason for the aforementioned issues with success) but even so, I have trouble picturing myself relaxing, job done. And this is from someone who has envisioned multiple battle scenes between imaginary creatures with barely a passing sweat. I’ve jumped a few hurdles – I got an agent and a publishing deal – but even then, that’s not quite enough. The agent didn’t sell either of my books and even with a publisher, there is no guarantee of sales. Like a desperate miner panning for gold, I’m hoping the next one will be the one to make it (or the one after that possibly). It’s the hope that keeps you going and the fact that there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing. But what if I stopped chasing success? It would do away with the nagging feelings of disappointment when things don’t go as I envisioned, but would that just be accepting failure? If there is no hunger (or more superficially the ability to haul out some actual accomplishments when meeting people at parties) is there a reason to get out of bed in the morning, other than small children bouncing on my head?
It was suggested to me by someone recently that maybe I could write a non-controversial, sweet, formulaic novel and possibly make some decent sales. My immediate reaction was NO! Absolutely not! but then I thought about it some more. There is nothing wrong with me doing that, it’s not like I have delusions of grandeur, but deep down there is a fear that even if I did that, sold myself to the devil of commercialism, it still might not sell. And that would leave me in the completely untenable position of having nothing else to blame. I need to hold on to my excuses, along with the idea that I’d rather write something I find interesting than solely for the money. But between you and me? I’d write anything if it was certain to be another Fifty Shades and I defy you to find another writer who’d disagree.
I thought I knew what I liked when it came to music. There’s some variety there: I nod along to eighties classics, raise a hand to nineties house, shout along to noughties girl power ballads and attempt to rap with Iggy (I like to think I’m fancy too). Given my husband’s musical taste stopped in the late eighties and is limited to ACDC, U2 and Guns n’ Roses, I felt it was my responsibility to keep up to date with current music trends for the sake of my kids’ musical education. I felt I had succeeded when watching the school Kindy to Year 2 disco, where my boys were right at home and grooved along with the girls to the latest hits played by the DJ.
There has been a recent, very troubling development though. I’d like to say I could trace it back to my childhood and the deviant tastes of my parents, but it was the odd humorous/folk musings of Harry Neilsson or Welsh tenor Harry Secombe that was played with alarming regularity in my formative years. Frankly, I’m surprised I turned out as normal as I did, given the number of times I heard “Put the Lime in the Coconut”, which contains the very misogynistic lyrics “you’re such a silly woman”. I’d like to say we’ve come a long way, but I’ve seen music videos in the last decade and I think it’s gone backwards. There’s nothing like an 80’s retro set on MTV to make you realise how G-rated those videos we grew up on were. The clothes might have been appalling, but at least they were there.
But back to the point of my post – I think I’ve been dreading actually admitting it and have been beating around the bush for the whole post. It started with some harmless and seemingly ironic banjo playing by the bearded hipsters in Mumford & Son. But it didn’t stop there! A few more songs entered my library that had a similar sound. I then thought, how bad would it be if I admitted that I injured my knee dancing to Dolly Parton? “Nine to five” is very catchy. Slowly, but surely, the creep had begun. Then tonight, watching Jimmy Fallon, it hit me in the face like a wet salmon straight from the river: I was nodding along and admiring the cowboy-ness of a band called Florida Georgia Line. For a moment, I was outside my body looking in, disbelievingly. If I was enjoying country music, did that make me a country music fan? Who am I…
I’ve been reading a bit of YA (young adult) and NA (new adult) at the moment, as my current WIP(work in progress) (that was the last of the acronyms, I promise) is YA, so it gets me in the head space and also allows me to see what’s out there. I enjoy the genre, though it tends to be the exception, rather than the rule, unless its Dystopian. I love a good world-gone-bad/struggle against the powers-that-be book. The problem for me is I’ve been an adult for a long time and my recollection of my teens and early twenties are nothing like in these books. On more than one occasion, I’ve rolled my eyes and scoffed loudly.
I remember the confusion and the acute embarrassment stemming out of what now seems fairly minor occurrences. I also remember being crippled with self-doubt and covering it as best I could with some fairly spectacular bravado. I had boyfriends and I fell in love, but I had no perspective to judge how important they were. To be honest, my perspective on most things was lacking. I went from experience to experience with no real goal or idea where I was heading. The entire time was chaotic.
I knew I was a pretty girl, but I didn’t ever grasp where exactly I sat on the scale. I wasn’t like the gorgeous model types, too short and rounded no matter how I starved myself. You can’t diet yourself tall and lanky. I was smart, but not brilliant enough to be one of the intellectual girls. So what was I? I never found where I fit and always felt I was chasing after a label that I wasn’t really good enough for. What I didn’t realise is that no one does, because the whole thing is illusionary.
Now I’m at the stage where the beauties are all much younger and career accomplishments I used to chase are obsolete. I’m no longer comparing myself to other women and can celebrate their accomplishments without feeling myself lacking. Compliments about appearance go with the mostly unspoken caveat of “for your age”. To be honest, it’s kind of liberating to not be trying to find a label anymore. I can finally relax and not worry about whether or not I’m attractive, because no one is looking at me like that any longer. Now when I’m walking down the street, the only thing I’m getting judged on is my parenting.