Monday, February 23, 2015

Are We Having Fun Yet?

by Mindy McGinnis

I work in a public school. The two libraries I help oversee serve 5th graders through seniors, and I end up in the building way past the hours that I stop getting paid. There's always something going on in a school, and basketballs bouncing in a gym have a way of calling to the ex-athlete, as does the ring of softballs hitting aluminum bats.

I don't get a chance to play much of anything anymore, taking the canoe out in the spring and hitting the gym every week is how I get my exercise now. But I'm often drawn into school sporting events, and while I know that the past is golden, I see some definite differences from the proverbial way things used to be.

I see the parents of fifth graders keeping stats in the bleachers, kids being pulled aside after games by coaches and parents alike (sometimes with a referee in tow for official backup) about what they did or didn't do, and how they can improve. I see adults talking about college admissions, scouts, percentages, injuries hurting playing time, and having conversations more suited to ESPN than a gym with fading paint.

Kid's faces are intense, and don't get me wrong - I think that's awesome. I know exactly how it goes in the moment, when a turnover under your hands feels like the end of the world, when sliding into home and winning the game could very well be the best thing that ever happened to you. Yeah, that's all true.

But sometimes I wonder if anyone out there is having fun anymore. Or anyone in the bleachers, for that matter.

Writing often feels the same way. I spent ten years receiving rejections for books that I was certain were Pulitzer material (they're not, for proof hit up my hashtag #BadFirstNovel). I was writing with visions in my head of awards, fame, and yes, money (that's a whole other post).

What I wasn't doing was writing because I loved it. I was writing because I was intent on making it my everything, and proving to myself and the world how freaking awesome I was.
  • Reality check #1 - I just wasn't.
  • Reality check #2 - That's partly because there was no heart in my writing.
After ten years of failing of I gave up. I truly did just let it go for a few years. I came back with a recharge and the thought that maybe I should try writing YA, since I had just started working in a high school. I came up with an idea I loved. A fun idea, nothing that was going to land me at a table with the President someday, but something fun. Something I liked.

And I wrote it.

And while it didn't garner representation or achieve publication, I rediscovered the enjoyment of writing. Which prompted me to write NOT A DROP TO DRINK, which opened up a whole new chapter of my life.

So if you're mired in your stats, or singing sad misereres over the dusty bones of the novel you've been rehashing forever, try to remember why you started doing this in the first place. And then maybe have some fun with it.

Mindy McGinnis is a YA author who has worked in a high school library for thirteen years. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, a post-apocalyptic survival story set in a world with very little freshwater, has been optioned for film my Stephanie Meyer's Fickle Fish Films. The companion novel, IN A HANDFUL OF DUST was released in 2014. Look for her Gothic historical thriller, A MADNESS SO DISCREET in October of 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. Mindy is represented by Adriann Ranta of Wolf Literary.

3 comments:

JeffO said...

Very nice post, Mindy. Keep the joy in it!

Regarding the sports thing, I think there have always been parents, coaches and kids who are way too serious, but I do believe it's worse now, and I suspect it's because the potential benefits of 'making it' are so high.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Very true, Jeff. Everything feels so high stakes. I just want the kids to have fun - and you can want to win, and be competitive as hell and still have fun. You shouldn't have to worry if that game hurt your college chances when you're in 8th grade. You should be hitting the Dairy Queen and laughing.

LD Masterson said...

Which works unless you actually started in the first place to become rich and famous...

Just kidding. You're right about getting back to the joy of it that many of us have lost. Sadly, you're also right about youth sports.