When to Hold ‘Em

Jul 29, 2010 by

Dear John, Drew, and Jake.

Do you remember learning about this race horse, Man O’War? Here you are in front of his statue – life-size, which is almost but not quite as amazing as the length of his stride, which we found at another place in the park. We stopped here, the Kentucky Horse Park, on our way from Florida July 2010, and I’m hoping you’ll remember it.

The story of Man O’War is extremely inspiring, isn’t it? Because Man O’War stood out from so many other horses, even other amazing ones. He only lost one race in his career – only one. That’s difficult to even fathom.

And I remember one of the sign posts in front of this statue said that many of Man O’War’s descendants were really fast too and fairly amazing. But that really all horse breeders just keep hoping, someday, a horse will be born that stands out as much and as miraculously as Man O’War did, though none have yet.

Can you imagine? People working hard, investing money, time, and motivation every day in the business of horse-breeding and racing, just clinging to the hope that maybe magic will one day be born again.

I’m doing that. Pursuing a dream that after four years doesn’t seem all that much closer to when I started. It’s just sitting there in front of me every day, the dream and the work – the constant work that I tuck into late evenings and weekends, with at least a glimmer of hope.

One day this year – maybe more – I thought of quitting. I felt almost certain I didn’t have it within me to tell a wonderful story and tell it well. I figured it was just the normal passing angst and I wrote in my journal that I wondered if maybe I should just give up and move on. “I bet some famous, beloved authors have said that,” I wrote. “But just imagine how many mediocre writers have said it too, and then actually did give up. And that was that.”

Pretty much every day I face that eerie nothingness of blank pages on my computer screen, ideas not yet written, mediocre drafts not yet perfected. No one sits beside me whispering that I should continue, telling me I’ll make it one day and should definitely keep on keeping on. It’s just me and the dream and the nothingness. And I make the decision again. I could quit. Today could be the day I give up, tired of the extra work without reward, the angst, the jealousy, the unknown. After all, life’s pretty happy without anything new in it, without any greater success. I mean, if nothing else, you guys are super, super cool and I’m a pretty wonderful, successful, and very accomplished person just for bringing you here.

Or I could keep going. Face the blank screen again, fight the jealousy, serenity-now the heck out of the angst. I can’t really think that hard about the goals or the steps it will take to get there. I just have to face the page and try again, keep writing, keep moving forward.

That’s the choice every day. You’ll face it too. Every day. It’s not true that you can be anything you want. It is true that you can try. And that some dreams do come true. And that your chances are way better if you choose a dream you’re theoretically fitted for and then work your butt off to get there. And if I never, not even on my dying day, get to hand you some absolute hold-it-in-your-hands proof that dreams come true this way, then at least you’ll know I faced the nothing every single day and kept trying. And maybe that will help you face yours and always keep trying too. Every. Single. Day.

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  1. This has Chutzpah written all throughout. It makes me want to try something that, in the past, I never thought I would succeed at.

    Facing the page…..what an original thought. So true. I can’t WAIT until throngs of people are standing in line at your book signing at Barnes and Noble, and I’m amongst them, whispering….I knew her before she was famous.

  2. Yes. Yes yes yes. Because you’d always regret it if you didn’t keep trying. And we WILL be seeing your books at Barnes & Noble some day.

  3. Facing the page. (I’m only crying a little) I’m proud of you for being brave… every, single, day.

  4. I just finished homework for a while and, wouldn’t you know it, I got a great idea for my rare rocks novel. Tragic and tearful, but great. And then this guy popped up and I’m all, HEY!, don’t I get a day or two to breathe here?! : ) Well, yes, I do and I’m taking them, but there are so many things to say, too.