One fall afternoon, several years ago, I was working the scoreboard for the JV football games as I did every home game. My son was a senior then and played on the high school varsity team, as was the case for most of the other fathers working the booth with me. We all volunteered our time and in return we received gate passes to every school sporting event. It was a nice arrangement and one I really enjoyed participating in.
Chuck, the father sitting next to me, controlled the 30 second clock and the two of us usually talked as much about the varsity team as the JV team playing before us. His son was an outstanding defensive lineman who led the team in every statistic; most tackles, most sacks, most recovered fumbles, etc. Chuck’s son was proud of his accomplishments, and everyone knew it. The father was proud of the son, and everyone knew it. Both of them were constantly being lavished with praise and high fives, all of it well deserved.
This particular afternoon our conversation veered toward our boy’s post high school plans. I told Chuck my son was probably heading to the University of Arkansas, and he replied that his son was also…if he received a football scholarship from there. At this point I fell silent. You see, Chuck’s son was a good player, a very good player, but he wasn’t scholarship material. Sure he dominated all the team statistics, but we played at an average size school in a mediocre conference. And physically the boy didn’t have the girth and/or speed needed to play that position at a division I college. Chuck’s son was the prototypical large fish…in a very small pond. And no, the boy was not a RUDY. There would be no recruiters scouting this prospect.
Looking back at that memory, it forces me to wonder about self-perception. When we look at ourselves, take the time to analyze who we think we are and how we stack up against everyone else, it’s really not like looking in a mirror. Instead, the reflection is refracted, like a straw sitting in a half-full glass of water that appears broken due to the bending light waves. There are so many factors that can skew our self-image, unconsciously painting ourselves in a more positive or negative light, rendering our self-assessment downright unreliable for some of us.
So, how can we trust what we see when looking inside? A writer’s self-doubt originates from there, sweeping across our moods like a mid-day summer storm.
Aren’t we all prospects, doing what we can to attract the attention of recruiters (agents) and land that scholarship to play for the college team (publishing house) of our dreams? I know that’s how I feel. But am I over-estimating my potential and better off applying to a local community college instead?
Can you tell that this has become a common theme with me recently? The closer I get to actually querying my manuscript, the larger this question looms. Is my work worthy? Do I belong in the club? Or am I like Chuck and his son, star-gazing into a refracted reality? But what about the positive comments I get from my beta readers and critique group, don’t they count for something? Then I remember all of the praise and slaps on the back Chuck and his son received, were those not sincere as well?
You really don’t need to answer any of these questions, or blow daisies up my shorts. I’ll have my answer soon enough. And when that happens I’ll adjust accordingly and move in whatever direction makes the most sense.