Surviving the Moat

Standing on the threshold of publication is nerve-racking. I am teetering at this moment, waiting for that gentle nudge that is but a wisp away-fully at the mercy of market conditions and business decisions that are out of my control. I know my time is coming. I can feel that breeze of hope slipping through the drawbridge cracks. Still, this oh-so-close vantage point makes me hungry for bite-sized optimism. Naturally, I turn to literature for my devotionals.

Way back in 2009, I blogged about a book that had inspired me and validated my years-long, dogged quest toward book publication. You can read that blog post here, though I encourage you to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, OUTLIERS: THE STORY OF SUCCESS for yourself. In it, Gladwell breaks down the 10,000 hour common denominator behind the greatest success stories in our country.  It is as true for writers as it was for the Beatles, or Bill Gates, or Michael Jordan, for example.

RecentlyI read Norton Juster’s THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH which was full of metaphor and analogy tied to a quest of a very different kind. I know you’ll laugh at me for admitting that I had never read this 1961 classic before. Indeed, I think it’s brilliant. A few passages are especially relevant to any evaluation of effort, failure, and dues-paying.

“You must never feel badly about making mistakes,” explained Reason quietly, “as long as you take the trouble to learn from them. For you often learn more by being wrong for the right reasons than you do by being right for the wrong reasons.”
     “But there’s so much to learn,” he said, with a thoughtful frown.
“Yes, that’s true,” admitted Rhyme; “but it’s not just learning things that’s important. It’s learning what to do with what you learn and learning why you learn things at all that matters.”


  “And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”

Finally, as I was curled up on my sofa today, suffering through a virus that left my head in a fog and my throat in a sand blaster, I watched the movie EAT, PRAY, LOVE (I had already read the book.) In one scene, Liz is in India talking with Richard from Texas who has nicknamed her ‘Groceries.’ It was as if someone had pushed the repeat button for me when Richard uttered this line.

“If you wanna reach the castle, Groceries, you gotta swim the moat.”

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? If the drawbridge were lowered for us, we wouldn’t appreciate the quest. In the end, this publishing biz is about survival of the fittest which applies both to talent and tenacity. Once you’ve reached the threshold, it’s about knocking on the right castle door.