Steve Jobs and Me

Let me start by saying I never met Steve Jobs; I wish I had, but that’s beside the point. Like millions of others, his life’s work has greatly influenced mine. I’d like to say that I would write books even if I had only pencil and paper, or only a typewriter. I might, but I’m not sure. But why Steve Jobs, in particular?

I didn’t become an Apple fanatic until 2007. Like so many others, my business ran on Windows products so I thought the conversion would be overwhelming. It wasn’t until I closed my art gallery and bought a laptop with the express idea of writing a novel (a fresh start) that I felt no barrier to switching products. I have been writing for four years now, yet I’m still not published. A good friend with a good heart recently asked me why I’m not published when so many other people are. I made a few self-effacing jokes and thought I’d let that comment die… and yet I can’t.

Malcolm Gladwell is famous for extolling the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any given field. Because I was not an English major in college (even though reading, writing and academia have been a major influence on my entire life), I believed that I needed to put in five years of writing before I could hope to be good enough to be published. Time will tell. But the death of Steve Jobs reinforces that fact. No one begins with perfection.

Looking back, the first Macintosh computer now looks like a dinosaur, a laughable relic. The iMac on which I now type is sleek, elegant and sophisticated—a masterpiece. Yet if Steve Jobs had never released the original Macintosh, this computer would not exist. Nor would the current iPhone, Nano, or iPad.

Why am I not yet published? Because I am not yet as good as Ann Patchett or Jonathan Franzen. I am hypercritical of my work and anxious for it to be better. I’m also kind of shy. Stretching out of my comfort zone to pitch a novel that isn’t as good as (insert any literary masterpiece here) stops me from sending out the quantity of query letters necessary to find the right agent to rep me. Instead, I finish a novel (I’ve completed three), send out a few queries, then immediately start on my next story knowing it will be better, it will be good. My standard of good enough is as high as Steve Jobs’ must have been, but it apparently didn’t hold him back and I cannot let it hold me back.

In 2005, Jobs gave a now-famous commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University. In that speech he said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” I love writing. I am confident that I will be published, and thanks to Steve Jobs, I will no longer be shy about what I have created. My first published work will probably not be the great American novel; that’s okay. The important factor is where it will lead me.

With enough love, persistence and luck, maybe one day I will write a novel that is as delicious as an Apple.


Who Are You? No, Really?

As a writer, it is essential to create characters as complex as real-life people, with likes, dislikes, friends and enemies, joys and worries, with a past and a future (unless you plan to kill them). A good writer will know her characters as intimately as she knows herself, her best friend, her husband, or children.

As a normal person, I wondered how many people, including writers, actually, truly know themselves? Or, better yet, if you were to hand out questionnaires to your friends and family members to describe you, how closely would their answers match your own? Do you see yourself the way others see you?

I have written two novels that my beta-readers describe as “definitely publishable”, and yet, I can’t hook an agent. It has been said that query letters are often so difficult because the writer is too close to his or her own work and therefore can’t talk about it objectively, especially in 250 words or less. I must be one of them. I guess I need to get better at self-promotion and sales!

There are myriad examples of people who behave one way in public and the complete opposite in private. Any man or woman who’s had an affair, is an easy example, but also actors who pretend to be happily married and then suddenly announce they’re getting a divorce. Politicians and back-stabbing friends would be good examples. Two-year olds who’ve learned how to lie and bulimics also qualify.

But I contend that some innocent, well-meaning people often have no idea how they come across to others. Ego is often involved: some people have too much, others have too little. Still others just WANT to be someone they’re not, so they act like they think they’re supposed to, but not in ways that are true to themselves (stiletto shoes, plastic surgery, dyed-blonde hair, a car he/she can’t afford?).

Interesting… this could go on and on. Sounds like a great conversation to have over a glass of wine.