This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. Enter your own here!
My cat, Mittens, is – how can I describe it? Let’s just say he’s not the brightest cat on the block. As a friend observed, “he’s one notch above a stuffed animal.” I argued for two notches, but Debbie had a point. Poor guy. It’s not his fault that he was born with no street-smarts or even house-smarts, and that he sleeps 23 1/2 hours a day. He’s also terribly timid and runs away if he sees even an ant. The most dangerous thing he’d ever attacked was a Starbucks straw. So imagine my amazement and shock when Mittens recently caught a mouse in our living room! It goes to show, you never know what someone is capable of.
The truth is, “what someone is capable of” is not fixed or finite; it changes and shifts as we learn and grow. I’ve seen this truth play out (to one mouse’s misfortune) in many ways, in my own life, and in the lives of others. You think you know someone. You think you know what she is capable of – the limits of her talent, the depth of her insights, the scope of her parenting skills. And then, it turns out, you misjudged. The person you thought you knew so well has unsuspected depth, humor, even virtuosity.
And that person could be you.
When I was trying to break into publishing children’s books, a well-known agent wrote me a letter in response to several manuscripts I had sent.
“Your stories are intriguing,” she wrote. “But they all have cracks in the middle. The beginnings don’t go with the endings.”
This pronouncement from an authority in the publishing world sounded fatal. My stories were broken. They had a genetic flaw – a death sentence for my future as a writer. It didn’t occur to me at first that I could actually fix my stories, although, as Woody Allen pointed out, “that’s why God invented the word ‘rewrite’.”
And rewrite I did. Eventually I sold my first book (minus the ominous crack) and saw it displayed in the gleaming window of a Fifth Avenue bookstore I used to wander through so wistfully.
But things did not always go so smoothly. Though I have sold books the first time out, some required over 100 submissions before being accepted, while others have been rejected twice that many times. I once had 10 picture books rejected by an editor over the telephone in 10 minutes. One rejection a minute; that’s a record!
I do sometimes get disheartened, but then I say to myself, “giving up is not an option.” After all, no one, including yourself, can define or circumscribe your limits, your potential, or your talent. Qualities such as drive, courage, tenacity – and the fact that you probably don’t take 23 1/2 hour naps – affect what you accomplish. Whether you’re raising a two-year-old, writing a memoir, or chasing a mouse, remember your inner self is a cosmos, infinite and uncharted. No one can survey it at a glance, or predict the limits of what you can achieve.
As for Mittens, he’s back to attacking Starbucks straws. But I have new-found respect for him. You never know what he might do next!