There is something that resonates with me when I watch Julie and Julia. I cannot count how many times I have watched this movie. Probably thirty times since it came out.
If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s about Julia Child’s journey from housewife in France to chef while Julie Powell, a blogger, goes through a personal journey to find herself as she spends a year going through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Both Julie and Julia are told that what they are doing is pointless and a waste of time because they will never be like -insert professional-. Luckily, both, especially Julia Child, have this kick-ass attitude. Tell me I can’t do it and watch me do it and succeed.
With my writing, most people I know are very supportive and encouraging, but there are always the naysayers who either tell you what you’re doing is pointless and should be abandoned in favor of “more worthy” pursuits or they go for the more subtle negativity via disinterest and immediate subject change. For every compliment and piece of good advice we get, we remember five more dispiriting comments. I can probably recite more of my negative reviews or comments than any of the good ones.
When I was an undergrad writing The Earl of Brass for my honors project, we had three people who were part of the panel that decided whether or not we passed (or passed with distinction). Two of them were people of my choosing, my mentor and one of my biology professors who had a love of Pride and Prejudice, and the last one was a random person from the honors council. Unfortunately, that person was a professor who oddly struck terror in me. He was my public speaking professor, and for someone with social anxiety and a fear of speaking in front of people (particularly extroverted students who continually shouted over each other), he was a twice a week horror. I hated his class and occasionally I think he relished putting me on the spot. When I saw he was part of my advisement board, I felt my heart drop. Part of me hoped he would be disinterested and just go with whatever my other advisors said. Toward the end of the project, I handed in the short version of The Earl of Brass, and he told me, “I gave it to my son to read. He works for Tor. We both agreed they get stuff like that all the time on the slush pile.”
I was nauseous. Months and months of hard work were flushed down the drain, lost in an editor’s slush pile never to be seen as valuable. First I was upset. I ranted and raved and cried a little. Being twenty-one, I was distraught that my work was so crappy. Then, I was pissed. How dare he. How dare he devalue my work. My mentor seemed to love it and my other professor enjoyed it and asked if there was going to be more. Who made him the god of publishing? After this, I swung back to the “my work is perfect” side, but once that evened out, I began to edit it and expand upon the shortened version until it reached its full form.
The Earl of Brass still isn’t perfect, it never will be, but I didn’t give up. I could have sat and cried and put my writing aside forever because I wasn’t “good enough.” Maybe if someone else said it, I would have been upset, but since it came from a scifi snob I couldn’t stand, it wasn’t nearly as hard to get over. Watching Julie and Julia, it reminds me of when the head of the cooking school tells Julia she will never be a chef and has talent for it. In cases like this, a screw-you attitude can go a long way. This does not mean that you should ignore every piece of criticism. They should all be looked at, considered, and learned from, but flat out negativity should be ignored.
Julie and Julia reminds me of that. When something stands in your way or tells you you are unworthy, squash it. Remember that as long as you work hard and keep striving toward your goal, you will get there. Firmly affix that screw-you attitude and keep on going.
Book Three of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices