Tuesday, November 15, 2011

How I Want to Be: AnthoCon Retrospective, Part 2: Who Do I Play With?

So, here's part two.  On a much more personal note.  And, while I've gotten lots of comments lately on how refreshing it is to read my blog because of its forthrightness and honestly, understand this: these are my opinions only, my musings about how I think things should go for me.  And NO ONE should ever take offense, ever.

That having been said, let's hop into the way-back machine.  Back in high school, a young guy named Kevin Lucia (who wrote every now and then in a spiral Mead notebook, not really understanding what he was doing) was obsessed with basketball.  He ate, drank, breathed, slept, dreamed, lived basketball, 24/7.

And he was good.  One of the best players on the high school team, a 4-year varsity starter, (though it should be noted he played for a pretty small high school) destined to play Junior College and Division III basketball.  But, the thing was, this kid had an all-consuming drive to become the best basketball player he could be.  So he lifted weights and ran wind-sprints over the summer.  Jumped rope.  And played, all the time.

Oh, did he play.

He also attended a high-profile, week long basketball camp every summer.  At these camps, he ran through drills, played games, lived basketball for a whole week, under the direction of top-flight coaches.

And there were lots of players there.  The all-stars, super players, players better them him: the elite. The cool kids.  The superstars.  And of course, Kevin wanted to hang around them, for lots of reasons.  Sure, because it was nice hanging out in their glow.  But also, he hoped to get asked to play in their pick-up games.  Because he knew the only way to get better was to play against people better than him.  Have them trash him, and he desperately wanted that, because he wanted to get better.

At these basketball camps, there were also players his level and beneath his level. And they were usually pretty cool, nice guys.  Quite frankly, some of them a lot nicer than the "super stars", and even if they weren't improving in the game as quickly as others, they still loved to play. But Kevin noticed that some of them didn't take the game very seriously.  Mostly played 'horse' or '21' or 'knockout', just goofing around.  And that was fine, too. Because you can't take everything deadly serious, all the time.

But he noticed, also, that some of those guys not only didn't like the superstars, they loathed them.  Built up lots of angst towards them, and believed THEY were superior to the super stars, because they didn't need to suck up to them.  "We don't need to hang out with those guys," this group claimed (well, some of them did).  "We're better than that."

Now, this left Kevin in quite a quandary.  He wanted to get better, was determined to get better.  So he was determined to hang-out with the big boys, be ready in an instant to run with them, so he could get knocked around and get better.  But, to be frank, sometimes the big boys only wanted their own buddies around, which made sense, and was fine, too The little guys didn't own the corner market on 'true friendship'.  These guys were true friends with each other too, and sometimes just wanted to be with their own.

But some of the little guys?  The ones who (some of them) stuck their noses in the air and claimed they were better than the big boys?  Well, they felt the big guys were being exclusionary big meanies, and sometimes that attitude was just annoying.  Didn't make sense.  And, in the process, became not fun.

And then, young Kevin's gaze drifted to a hoop on a far away, empty court at the back of camp.  He decideded to go over to that hoop by himself and shoot running jump shots until his legs wouldn't carry him anymore, do lay-up drills until he got dizzy, lose himself in the bammita-bammita rhythm of a dozen dribbling drills, and shoot free throws until his arms turned to rubber.  By himself.   Because sometimes, you just need to do it by yourself.  And let everyone else go their own way.


This scenario by no means has a 1 - 1 ratio with the world of publishing as I see it.  But reflections of it? These I do see. And it also made me question my intentions when attending Cons:  am I there merely to gleam off the super-stars, the big boys, trying to hang in their wake, and...in rather base terms....suck up? And, if I ever do become a big boy...will I leave others behind, folks who maybe don't move at the same speed in their careers, or maybe aren't writers at all?

And what about my family?  My wife and kids?  Will I keep balance?  Will I NOT lose hold of them and everything I hold dear in the pursuit of this big, great dream of mine that's so enticing, so tempting, it can suck even a strong person down in a minute.  Will I make sure NOT to leave them out, or behind?
But, should I then turn my nose up at those big folks, scorn their advice, dismiss them as being too "big to hang out with us" (which is patently untrue), maintain that I don't need those big boys? (a huge mistake) And, how petty of me to assume that the big boys don't have close friends of their own they'd like to hang with, for a change?

Maybe I'm blowing this out of proportion.  Over-thinking things (which, as my students know, I'm prone to doing).  But...once again, as I've so often come to over the past three years...balance is central to everything, especially figuring out a writing career, while remaining true to one's own values, and most of all, their loved ones AND friends.

Because - and this is NOT meant to point out anyone or anything in particular - I see things.  I observe.  Watch.  Wait.  And think.

And remember.  Because I see things I don't like.  And I worry, how to be me...but still run with the big dogs (or try to) without being an annoying, glory-sucking hanger-on, and I want to hang out with my friends, and I want to stay friends with them. 

I want to shoot for the stars.  But I want to stay consistent. 

I want to be me. 

Not sure if I've come to an answer, here.  Not sure if there is an answer, really.  And none of this comes from AnthoCon itself, except that I hung out with some really good, supportive friends this weekend....and I don't want to leave them  behind.  And, I don't want to get sucked into the Con circuit whirlpool, and forget real life.

My biggest problem? I just want everything to be simple.

And, let's face it - life is not simple.

But I do know this - Con season is over, and again, finances being what they are, who knows what Con I'll attend next.  But that's okay.  Because see that court all the way in the back, the one no one is using?  It's time to go off by myself, BE myself, and shoot running jump shots until I can't run, anymore.

Because that, in the end, is what it's all about.  Something simple.  Because there's only so much I can control, but, really, considering the things I CAN control: my work habits, effort, behavior, treatment of others, stewardship of my family....

There's SO much I CAN control.

It's simple.

But, then again, simple isn't easy.