Each person is the protagonist in his or her own life. This is true whether someone is a writer, an architect, a fast food restaurant employee, a doctor, a student, a dancer, or a funeral director. And while I'm stating the obvious, each life has oodles of stories that can be told about it. The first day of school might be a picture book story. The same is true for the second grade spelling bee--even if you lose because you overthink an answer and wind up sobbing, and the happy ending comes when your mom buys you a trophy to let you know you're always a winner in her eyes.
If you dissect one person's life, think of the stories that may be told. If I were to imagine my current aspiring author-self as the protagonist in a book or film, the big tear-jerking moment at the end would be the agent call that lets me know about my first book deal. (The part of the agent has yet to be cast, but those who qualify may audition.) Another story could cover the next books (!), my time in rehab for Frappuccino addiction (I hope not!), how I handle being a New York Times bestselling author (Dream big, bloggy friends!), or how I die an old woman hunched over the keyboard, unpublished but working until the very end to change that (genre: horror).
Let's focus on the story about the journey from "aspiring author" to "author." It is a journey. At the beginning, we have no idea how little we know. The map in our hands, we soon realize, has folds that stick together, hiding miles of terrain. Also, the section marked as hilly is actually a ginormous mountain range dotted with lava pits (failure), soul-sucking spiders (self-doubt), and little pygmy goats that distract us with their cuteness (everything in life that might be easier to obtain). But aren't journey stories with lava pits, soul-sucking spiders, and pygmy goats the most rewarding in the end? (Note to self: add lava pits, soul-sucking spiders, and pygmy goats to work-in-progress.)
Don't get me wrong: as much as I like conflict in stories, I don't want it in my real life. I want to be published as soon as I possibly can. If I could have debuted yesterday, I would have. But with hindsight, I'm glad I didn't debut, say, five years ago. While I felt ready and craved a book deal a bajillion times more than I thirsted for any caffeinated drink with a green straw, I've learned so much since then. I've grown as a writer and as a person. I'm now farther along on my journey, and I'm more prepared.
As the protagonist in my own life, I can't wait for the climax! I am on the edge of my seat! But really, I can wait. I have to. Besides, you shouldn't rush a good story.
Question: if you could peek at the end of the current book you're starring in to learn the date of the next big moment in your writing journey, would you?
*Note: next week I'll post an interview with author Stasia Ward Kehoe! I will be giving away a copy of AUDITION, her debut YA novel!