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Thursday, March 05, 2009

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Playground Friends


Somebody who loves me seated me next to Katherine Center at the speaker's dinner in Houston last month. Remember the wine that landed me in Guy Kawasaki's bushes last summer? They served that at the welcome reception at Mom 2.0. I blame it if I talked her ear off. It's a weak defense, but at least I kept my pants on.

A copy of her just-released novel, Everyone Is Beautiful,
was given to all the speakers, and I took mine with me to New York and Quebec. I read it in three flights, and was thoroughly charmed by it. More than that, I was—and this is what you want fiction to do— affected by it. The main character, Lanie, became my friend. I got to know her. And she is still with me.

A lot of other people are going to get to know Lanie. "Everyone" got a very positive review in People magazine this week, accompanied by a photograph of Katherine's smiling face. It's all happening for her. I love when good things happen to good people.

Recently, a lot of people have been asking me for advice about writing and publishing, and I'm at a bit of a loss to offer any, except ignore most advice. The kind that is sweeping and general, anyway, where "always" or "never" is implicit or explicit. If I had heeded the always and nevers, I wouldn't have gotten very far. Conventional wisdom, as I've said before, is an oxymoron.

I don't have advice. I have a little experience, that is unique to me, and may or may not be helpful to you. Reading of Katherine's latest success today, and genuinely cheering it, reminded me of something essential I've learned: creative jealousy is poison I can't afford to drink.

During the years I was not writing, I couldn't bear to hear of other writers winning prizes and accolades. Somewhere deep down, I believed that they were using up all the talent and success, and there wouldn't be any leftover for me.

Sitting down to the keyboard and beginning this blog didn't cure my scarcity mentally overnight. But my focus began to shift as I rediscovered the pleasure of creating.

Chelation is a slow process. When I had something accepted for publication, I was happy for every single author to ever populate the bestseller list. When I was staring at another rejection, they could all go to hell.

Then I realized something. Successful creative people are surrounded by other successful creative people. They are seated at dinners with them. They attended launches and openings and award ceremonies with them. They collaborate on creative endeavors with them. Becoming successful in a creative life -- in anything-- means necessarily being around more and more people who are experiencing success. If I ever wanted to be there, I needed to practice being comfortable with it.

And believe me, I practiced. I applied the principle of "fake it till you make it." I forced myself to be happy for other people's dreams coming true until I actually felt it. It was some difficult soul yoga sometimes.

Today, it was no stretch at all.

I used to think success was a seesaw. If someone else was up, I must be down. I didn't realize I was the only person on the teeter totter all along. No wonder my end seemed to stay down. Now, I think of success as a carousel. It comes around, and goes around. Always room for one more.



Blogger Motherhood Uncensored said...

So true. There's definitely enough goodness to go around.

10:02 PM  
Blogger Mir said...

Right on. The whole idea of surrounding yourself with successes seems so elementary to me, now, and I'm always surprised when people feel defensive and competitive rather than enhanced by those who've cracked the code. I'm so grateful to those who go before me, and I hope I'm able to be as helpful and gracious to those behind me, too.

Also, I am totally going to tell people I knew you when after you hit the bestseller list. ;)

8:36 AM  
Blogger RW said...

I thank you for these words.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Melinda said...

SOOOOO true! SOOOO true. And it's a damn fine yoga to practice. In some ways (all ways!) it doesn't really matter about outcome, the practice is everything. And then, remarkably, the outcome emerges and has absolutely nothing to do with others, and everything to do with continued practice.

12:45 PM  
Blogger Mariellen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:43 AM  
Blogger Mariellen said...

I think learning this hard soul yoga frees us to be our best selves; generous, supportive, inquisitive and be more free and creative because we are ready to risk. It is a very *hard* yoga to learn if, as I sometimes do, we fall into the habit of not thinking - consciously - this way. Melinda is right: the practice is so important and all of the journey.

Great post, Kyran. I think you should start a little blog section, "Kyran's quotes" to go along side your "faves" and add "Creative jealousy is a poison I can't afford to drink" right up there near the top :)

(Thank you to the other commenters too, I enjoy reading your posts very much.)

7:47 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

I admire your honesty. When I'm complaining about the loss of an idea, because "someone just did it", my husband always reminds me there's an abundance of creativity and success. There's not one success pile that each published work removes a spoonful or shovelful from, reducing it to nothing. Not true. Thankfully.

Very helpful post. :)

9:36 AM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

I've had to learn this lesson lately (it hasn't been easy), but it's finally taken root. Everyone has their own thing they do, unique to her/him, in a voice no one else can match. And there's room for everyone.

Still, it was good for me to read this - I'm very glad you said all of it.

1:38 PM  
Blogger katherine said...

Thank you so much for including me in this very wise post! I so agree: When you're excited about what you're doing, it follows easily to be excited about the cool things other people are doing. And keeping company with people you admire just has to be a good thing. That's why I loved being at Mom 2.0. So many amazing people doing amazing things--swimming in that kind of water was completely therapeutic. (And being at the Four Seasons wasn't too shabby, either.) ... I LOVED sitting next to you at that dinner and hearing the incredible story you shared with me. I could have sat there all night, chin on hands, listening to you!
Many, many good wishes!!
P.S. I'm so glad to hear that you liked the book!
P.P.S. It was totally surreal to see my photo in PEOPLE!!

5:15 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

This was brilliant and honest and absolutely true, which is just what I expect when I come to your blog and why I keep coming back!

10:32 PM  
Blogger JCK said...

The lovely Suzanne above sent me over here urgently to read this post. It speaks to me today. Thank you for writing it.

11:13 PM  
Blogger Smiling Mama said...

I LOVE that carousel metaphor. It is so important to surround yourself with successful, creative people in all aspects of life.

9:04 AM  
Blogger meghan said...

This is so lovely. Thank you for your words. Beautiful.

2:18 AM  
Blogger daily editor said...

You've put into words what I have felt so many times. Your post is a great reminder that a positive, supportive attitude can go a long way. There's room for all of us.

10:01 AM  

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