We of the internet-gratification generation have the uncanny ability not only to keep our eyes on the prize, but sometimes to become nearly blind by keeping only the prize in our eyes. Kind of like when my son based his decision to participate in two seasons of soccer per year based on one end-of-the-year pizza party. The promise of a pizza party in May does little to quell the chattering teeth of a 7 year old midfielder in shorts on a 45-degree rainy day in October. Especially one who is gluten-free.
But don’t we all fall for the pizza party promise? Imagining ourselves signing copies of our books, selling our start-up for big bucks, or sitting on Jon Stewart’s
lap couch? With any project seen through to fruition, the work to get there boomerangs right back ‘atcha before you can count the number of likes on your self-rising platform.
I wrote a novel in 2010. I revised it in 2012. I knew it wasn’t done and started querying anyway—eye blinded by the prize. I now have an agent who read it and told me it needs another revision before it’s ready to show to publishers. My mind keeps juggling around that wet soccer ball in the adrenaline-void —Do I even like this manuscript anymore? Should I start another one instead? I’ll take my deep-dish with extra resistance please!
However, I also know the reality of doing the work—slogging through. Trying to stay on top of my to-do list during high-LTYM season feels like taking half-vegan pepperoni/half-just-crust-no-sauce-no-green-things-anywhere orders for 75 hungry girl scouts hopped up on rootbeer and huffing sugar packets from the tables. I didn’t launch LTYM into a national project until I’d done the show in Madison and fully knew its mission and basic tenets. I didn’t do the show as a means to anything bigger—I think the “bigger” only happened because of the quality of the original show. I’ve never begged favors—people felt inspired by the design and execution of that first show to the extent that they asked to join me. I was making pizza and eating pizza all at the same time. Wow, this analogy never gets old!
This week I had the pleasure of talking with a woman preparing to launch a new website. She and her business partner have worked for a year in anticipation of their debut. She articulated the vision of her project to me with a confidence and clarity that only hours and energy invested can provide. It felt refreshing to see someone putting in the work before begging for pizza AND breadsticks.
This blog post and pizza analogy leads to only one place—Julia Child, obviously, and Karen Karbo’s new book Julia Child Rules #LiveLikeJulia project. I’m not being compensated to write about this, by the way. Reading a delightful sample chapter about Julia and Simca’s (Simone Beck) perseverance writing Mastering The Art of French Cooking inspired me. The pair suffered rejection after rejection as they cooked and edited 900 pages down to 750 pages to what was supposed to be a “snappy” 300-some pages. They had to reconcile their fastidious French cooking techniques with not only the publishers idea of recipes mid-century mainstream American housewives would be willing and able to follow (see frozen vegetables), but also with the realities of American food/home-dining culture.
The irony of the pizza—the book deal, show day, your kids finally falling asleep at night—lies in its fleetingness. How often do we gobble it up so fast that we hardly taste it? Sometimes the highs feel so high, so big, so filled with 5 special cheeses, we can hardly take them in.
Chapter 7’s title “Solve the problem in front of you” reminds me to get back to work, to dig in, and to savor the process along the way.
"In Julia Rules, Karen Karbo has written that rare bird of a book: one that manages on every page to be as enlightening as it is entertaining, as smart as it is funny. In prose as clean and sharp as your best kitchen knife, Karbo gives us a portrait of the incomparable Julia Child that’s intimate, inspiring, and unlike anything I’ve ever read about Child before. I want to make wallpaper out of this original and beautiful book just so I can have Karbo’s unparalleled wit and wisdom always on hand."
-Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild