This morning, I watched Veronica Roth jump into a bathtub full of marshmallows.
I'm a bit behind the times — she did this in 2010 and posted it on her blog, a promise fulfilled to her readers about what she'd do if she landed a book deal. And when "Divergent" got her that deal, she followed through.
It's a seriously fun moment. And that doesn't stop me from having serious mixed emotions about it.
I've been immersed in "Divergent" for the last few days thanks to work-related obligations, and while I haven't read the series or (necessarily) have plans to see the movie(s) that will ensue, I feel reasonably informed about this latest attempt to capitalize on the Young Misunderstood Adults Will Save the World phenomenon. Hey, "Harry Potter" and "Hunger Games" did it well and with enormous success in the movies and on the shelves, so does it matter that "Narnia" seems to have petered out, "Golden Compass" was a non-starter and "Percy Jackson" didn't go anywhere?
But back to sitting in marshmallows, and the rainbow of emotions I went through watching that video. Here are just a few colors:
Good for her: She wrote a book! She got a deal! She's clearly thrilled. This is how all aspiring writers (or really, anyone aspiring in the creative profession) hopes we'll feel. We hope we'll feel it more strongly than, unfortunately, what comes next.
What the hell? She wrote this book in college? Got it published and made into a movie before she turned 25? Who did she know? How did she do this thing? And more importantly ….
Where did I go wrong? It's an easy slide into the green area of that particular rainbow. It's a big swathe, actually. Fact is, I've been writing stories since I was about seven or eight and full novels since I was 12 and sans a) confidence b) networking c) mature writing skills. I had that dream of being published at 25. I didn't have the other important elements, though.
This is not something John Updike would have done. How unseemly! Serious writers need to be serious all the time. Right? Wrong.
None of that matters anyway. It's only partly about the work, but the work is almost all you can control. Writing a book does not guarantee publication (and that's a good thing), and getting published doesn't necessarily mean you've written a book that ought to be published. There are so many factors that go into this process it's useless to do any kind of comparison.
It's all your own journey. In the end, at the risk of going into Oprah territory, it is. As much as I would have wanted to be a published fiction author at the tender age of 20-something, I didn't know what the hell I was doing. The words were there, the stories were there, the depth was not. Whether what I've learned since will affect my prospects for the future remains to be seen, but it's how I got here, and it took all this time. It may still take more time.
In the meantime, I'll work harder on being happy for Ms. Roth and her marshmallows.