While pushing my obviously-shopping-for-one tiny cart through Grocery Store Land, I suddenly and without hubris think, “Hey, hold up y’all. I’m a multi-published author.” I lift my head from bright-colored packaging and muse, “Right this very moment, someone may be reading one of my books . . . wow.” *Adjusts crown* I pick up a jar of sour pickles (no relation to sour grapes) and consider this: “What if that person who walked by and smiled as if they knew me does know me?”
In the cooler section, I am cool. “Why, I could be famous and not even know it. Maybe that song over the loudspeaker is about me . . . .” *Fa-ame it’s (all) mine it’s (all) mine*
Come on—you can tell me. You’ve surely felt this amazingly pumped. Right? *Scans faces for acknowledgment of kindred spirits*
And don’t we open that bag of goodies right there in aisle 5, swallow the goodness down, and as it enters our blood and rushes through our veins and fills our marrow, we feel plumb-ass full of how great this writing life is—do a little hot-dog-gone dance right past the deli section.
To the woman sluffing by in her I’ve-Given-Up-And-Given-In sweatpants and resigned expression, we shout, “My time has come at last. I am one with the Literary Universe. You have met me, now go and be awesome, because I decree you deserve it!” And disco sparkles explode from the overhead lighting as she rips off the sweatpants to reveal her sparkly outfit and new outlook on life. What can we say, except, you’re welcome! Of course with modesty, for humility covers our heads as a gentle hand staying the hopping up and down in glee.
I wanna be all that and then some on a southern-fried stick. Don’t you? Why can’t we feel joyitude at our accomplishments, whatever they are? If you suddenly feel on top of the world, then for gawd’s sake buy the good Italian tuna in olive oil and the good Ina-Garten-says-so vanilla and the name-brand milk and the cage-free-no-suffering-chickens’ eggs.
Isn’t that what we want? To be appreciated by our readers. To be admired by our peers. To be recognized in the booze aisle—no wait, in the healthy food section, that is. And a parade in our honor. And, um, maybe a best-seller list. Oh! And a big fat ole award displaying our brilliance. Oh, yeah, and our ever-present humility, too. Throw ‘em all in the basket! It’s not going to cost you as much as self-indulgent starvation will.
Yup, glory-moments that stop us short in the peanut butter and jelly aisle.
But then, somewhere near the toilet paper section we realize we’re so full of shit and the anxiety curls around our innards and we snivel in the corner with our hands out pleading, “Charmin. Stat!” And as our angsty tears fall like the clichéd rain, the music is replaced by a loud and clear voice ringing across Grocery Store Land, “Clean up on Aisle 17! It’s another goddamn long-suffering writer!”
And Uncle Ben whispers from the rice bag, “What if this very moment someone is reading your book and thinks, ‘Complete and utter southern fried shit on a stick. This author SUCKS!’ And they throw the book across the room, stomp on it, spit on it twice, pick it up with the very tip of their pointer finger and thumb, and with a cry of disgust, toss it into the garbage. They tell all gamillion of their friends—the entire reader universe—‘I banish this author, forever and ever.’ So let it be written; so let it be done.”
And off we go on a spiral of What If’s—two awfully contrary words. “What if I’m a failure?” Ungh ungh! “What if the next book isn’t as good as the last? Oh no! Wait! What if the last one was bad, too? Readers across the land are spitting and tossing and stomping and warning their friends. I’m . . . I’m banished!”
The grocery store lights flicker on and off, faster faster, slower slower. A shadow lurks! A discombobulating clown hides amongst the cauliflower.
Suddenly, every other author is putting the good tuna and the good vanilla and the name-brand milk and the happy chicken eggs in their baskets while we throw dented cans and off-smelling dairy and almost-expired meats in our pitiful basket of woe.
When we let negativity suck the happitude out of us, the joy of the language, the characters, the readers, the accomplishment of writing, and if we are lucky, of publishing a book, we think every other writer but us is . . . successful. Those ellipsis hold weight and unsaid words as well as the ridiculous.
Well, for those of you who have not yet published or have just newly published, here’s some food for thought: If 90% (or more) of writers told the truth about what they really find in their mailboxes come royalty check time (if you consider for a moment the fallacy that “success=money”), there’d be a whole lot less sobbing and gnashing of teefsies from those who feel like “failures” because they’ve not made money (fallacy 2: “money=validation”). Not many of us are confident enough in our soon-to-arrive check to do our shopping at Whole(lawdy) Foods with nary a wince at the register.
However, we really are in control of what bullshit we want to heap on our pea-headed selves. If we want to have our basket heaping with gooey goodstuff, then toss it in with gleeful abandon. Strut your stuff down the aisle. Tell the clown he can have all the cauliflower, because that stuff’s just naaaaasty, y’all.
I know I like me better when that beautiful realization pops me upside my head that I have accomplishments of which I can be proud. And next time I reach in the mailbox and there’s a royalty check, I’m’a gonna be happy I get one, whether it’s 1 million dollars (hahahaha-oh god, hahahaha—wait hold on, I’m laughing too hard to finish my thought; *gasping for breath* a mill-iiii-ooon—do-haha-la-hahaha-lars!* whew, okay . . . ) or one-hundred dollars. Let’s go for gleefully slurping up our accomplishments with extra whipped cream—the good kind of course.
We are writers. Or editors. Or maybe we are voracious readers (I love you!). Or artists. Or musicians. Or quilters. Or sewers. Or electricians. Or happy chicken farmers. Whatever we are, whoever we are, wherever we are, we deserve a little good tuna, good vanilla, name-brand milk, and free-roaming chicken happiness.
Are you ready to find your moment of glory in the grocery store (of life)?