So, I was at a dog show this past weekend, a collie specialty show, to be more precise, and I got to thinking about a few things. I started thinking about how long it’s taken me to get to where I am in my dog show career and how long it’s taken me to get to where I am in writing career.
Even though on first glance there aren’t many similarities in both chosen careers, there really are a lot of parallels.
Jealousy seems to be pervasive in both. Jealousy can do a lot of nasty things to your ego and psyche.
I remember when I first got serious about a writing career and I joined a romance writer’s group over in Illinois. There was one member who was so desperate to see her name on the cover of a book that she went the self-published route. (This was a long time ago—when being self-published was NOT given a lot of respect.) This was the same author who told me that what I was writing wasn’t romance. Those words hit hard and they hurt. But, after getting over the pain of being told what I was writing wasn’t romance, I stepped back and looked at what I was writing. I asked a few friends whose opinion I trusted to read what I wrote and give me their honest opinion. Nope…I was writing romance, even in those early years. I could have allowed those hurtful words to shoot down my dreams, but I didn’t. At least, not initially…
Another time, very shortly after this, I was a critique partner of another budding author. We hooked up in the AOL chat rooms (shows how long ago this was). As I understood it, being a critique partner meant finding the good things in a manuscript and also finding what didn’t work, helping to brainstorm ways to fill in plot-holes, and making suggestions to improve the overall manuscript. To this day, I cannot remember that author’s name, but I will never forget what she said when I offered a suggestion to fill in what I saw as a plot-hole in her contemporary romance. She told me that the only thing she wanted and needed from a critique partner was someone to find typos and grammatical errors, that the rest of the manuscript was perfect, and that she “had a hard time choking down” the “garbage” I was asking her to read. To quote her: “Unless you step up your game, you’re never going to be more than a hack writer, churning out the same kind of crap they publish at Harlequin.”
Those two events combined to make me walk away from the keyboard for over three years. I didn’t write. I didn’t think about writing. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t even go back and look at anything I wrote. And, then I started to think…Harlequin authors make darn good money! I doubt any of them see themselves as “hack writers.” So, I made myself go back to the keyboard. I made myself write.
I made myself step up my game, not because I was afraid I was going to end up being a “hack” but because when I’m angry, I step it up. I’m one of those people if you tell me I can’t do something, most of the time (unless it involves defying the laws of physics), I’m going to prove you wrong. I will make you eat your words and I have yet to find a recipe that makes crow taste good.
And thinking about those things lead me to thinking about this crazy journey I’ve had in dog shows. I was told, years ago, by a person I was smart enough to remove from my life, that I would never amount to anything in collies, that I couldn’t handle a dog well enough to win, and when I did win, it was because the dog was good enough to overcome my shortcomings as a handler. This person also told me that I’d never breed a single champion and he was going to be the number one smooth collie breeder of all time. (Some of you are laughing while reading this, because I think you can guess who this person was.) As of last count, I have been the breeder or co-breeder of more than 20 champions and that other person—ZERO. As to being able to handle a dog—I think my record in the show ring speaks for itself.
I don’t go to a lot of shows. I’m very selective about where I go and who I show. I don’t want to be the person when I walk into the building, other people say, “Oh, crap…she’s here,” because when that happens, complacency sets in. I want that edge. I want to walk into a building, size up who’s there, and think to myself, “Well, this was a wasted trip,” and then go on and win.
But, it all boils down to jealousy. Do I allow that very human emotion of jealousy to overcome what I know I do and I do well? Or do I shove that ugly, green-eyed monster back into a far corner, turn out the lights, and refuse to listen to it? I know what I’ve chosen. I honestly believe the very hurtful things that were said to me about my writing and about the dogs I show and my ability to handle were said out of jealousy. And, I won’t let that ugly emotion stop me from doing what I enjoy.