I don’t wanna be here.
“Read your books in a bookstore,” they said. “If you want people to buy them, you have to do this.”
But it happened again, just like my birthdays. Nobody showed up.
Well, a few did:
- an old guy (I think he’s the janitor)
- a bag lady
- a teen dude who brought his Nintendo DS
And they’re waiting for me to read.
Well, maybe not.
The old man, he’s already snoring. The lady’s rummaging through her bags and the kid’s playing Resident Evil, which aptly applies to my state-of-mind right now.
This is torture.
You see, I hate reading aloud. It’s like bad acting and sounding stupid. As I scan this page, I’m thinking how I’m gonna come off, which invariably won’t be great, ‘cause I’ll stumble from word to word.
I’m dyslectic. And shy. And well, kinda hard on myself.
So I hate performing. I’ve been diagnosed as an introvert. Introverts make lousy performers. But they told me, introvert or not, MARKETING is part of writing. Terrific… Right now I’m in marketing HELL, pretending to enjoy this.
My eyes drop to page one of “Irv’s Odyssey.”
I hear a noise.
Again I look up.
The bag lady is pealing an orange, dropping skin bits onto her smelly, worn-out Nikes.
No socks, dirty toes, long toenails.
I should be reading but this is more interesting.
Back to business. I clear my throat, stop my hands from shaking, and begin with sentence one.
“My name is Irving Podolsky and I don’t fit in, anywhere. A long time ago Bud Jones–”
DAMN! Somebody’s cell phone! Who would be rude enough to bring a phone to my reading?!
I’m gonna kill…
Oh, shit… It’s mine — in my pocket. Forgot I had it.
I yank it out, glance at the screen. It’s Mom. She always calls me at the WORST TIMES!
WAIT A MINUTE! She was supposed to be here TOO!
I take this call. “Mom, where are you?”
“Irv honey, are you sitting down?”
“No, I’m standing at a podium. Where are you?”
“The hospital. I was–”
“I was leaving the house when I got a call. It was your cousin Bruce. Uncle Morry passed.” She sniffs, sniffs again, and collapses into sobs. “Morry… So young…”
“Mom, he was ninety-six…”
“He never woke up…”
My mother’s wailing now, and I am so relieved. Uncle Morry died. That’s actually, like an okay reason for Mom not showing up.
I hear footsteps. My gaze lifts to the room in front of me.
Oh my God! The chairs are filling! People are sitting in them. Lots of people! Old people, kids with balloons, men, women, YA’s! Dogs! A clown act. Hot dog vendors. Police for crowd control.
The phone goes back to my ear. “Mom, gotta go.”
Damn! She hung up on me!
Well, who cares now? I’ve got a real audience – a big, fat flock waiting to hear my words!
Again I start reading. Faster this time. “My name is Irving Podolsky. And I don’t fit in anywhere. A long time ago, Bud Jones–”
What? Someone tapped my shoulder. I look right, into the face of teen girl with acne and blue lipstick. “Mr. Podolsky, your time’s up. Our next author is here.”
“What next author?”
“Who’s Susan Collins?”
“She wrote the Hunger Games. Her ninth sequel just came out.”
“But I just started!”
She shrugs. “Nobody cares about that.”
From someplace far away, comes, “Irving, wake up. WAKE UP!”
Huh? I’m panting, eyes fluttering open. I look around.
I’m still in my shrink’s office lying on his couch.
And yeah, he’s sitting on the other side of the room for our third session. Today he’s wearing a hockey mask, welding gloves and construction boots.
When I get anxious, I grab things.
“You dozed off while I took a call,” he tells me, adjusting the strap on his face guard.
“You did that in my session?”
“It was important.”
“More than me?”
“We’ll pick up where we left off,” he says, with a edge of impatience. He doesn’t like me. I wish he liked me.
He leans forward. “Let’s review.”
I review. “I have a condition.”
“Obsessive Rejection Aversion Disorder.”
“It’s hereditary, passed on through the mother’s gene, but limited to only Jewish writers, Jewish stand-up comics, and people who want to be Jewish.”
“This is the reason for my scary dreams. And I just had another one.”
“I know. You were mumbling, ‘Uncle Morry died…’”
“That was the good part. The bad part was, I had to convince people to like my books.
“Irv… Not everyone will like your books. No author in the world has everyone liking their books.”
“What about J.K. Rowling?”
“Well, there are exceptions.”
“J. R. R. Tolkien…”
“I. H. Podolsky…”
“Oh…that’s you. I see your point. You need marketing.”
I’m off the couch. “BUT I HATE MARKETING! It’s manipulation! And people resent that!”
“Back up, Buddy!”
“See! You don’t like me either!”
“That’s your ORAD talking!”
“I need a hug!”
“I said, BACK UP!”
I back up, as tears roll down. “You don’t understand,” I whimper. “It’s just not right, trying to make people want what they didn’t want in the first place.”
“You’ll never be Steve Jobs.”
“And it’s against my nature to brag.”
“Shouting how great you are, or how spectacular your book is, that’s what obnoxious, conceited people do. I saw that in the forth grade.”
“And what do think happened to those ten year-olds who felt confident about themselves, who felt special, like you want to feel?”
“They now own my house. They turned into bankers.”
“They’re winners, Irving. There’s a difference between feeling confident, where you offer your products and services, and one who is insecure and is pitching for approval.”
“I’m definitely confident.”
“But not about telling people how confident I am.”
“You don’t tell people you’re confident. You act that way, because you are that way, without a thought about manipulating anything. You’re simply the messenger at the party handing out presents to those who asked for them.”
“I don’t like parties. You have to remember names.”
“But you want people to remember yours.”
“But you don’t want to work for that.”
“I just don’t want to be somebody I’m not.”
“That’s not the issue.”
“Like we learned today, you fear rejection.”
“Yeah, but…. Look, all that promotion stuff and research…it’s just boring.”
“Why is it boring?”
“It’s not creative.”
“Tell that to the ad agencies.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No I don’t. Why can’t you find creativity in exposing your work to the world? There are so many interesting ways to do that.”
“About the themes in your books?”
“No. Then I’d be pushy. I HATE pushy people. I don’t want to be pushy.”
“We’re back to where we started. Let’s move on. What about book reviews and book bloggers?”
“I’m gonna do that, as soon as my ebook versions are out.”
“Don’t reviewers take hard copies?”
“Some. But I want to do it all at once.”
“It doesn’t make a difference, anyway. All those web reviewers are backlogged six months. And they only like certain kinds of stories, and even if they do like mine, it’ not like it’s the New York Times. Who’s gonna see their words?”
“Last week, you said that about your own blog.”
“Yeah. With a zillion blogs and published books, how am I gonna make a difference?”
‘Makes no difference’ my shrink jots down. “Have you submitted your work to writing contests?”
“Haven’t gotten to it yet.”
“And when did you publish?”
I’m starting to feel even worse. I really need that hug. So I reach…
My doc jumps from his chair, grabbing a fly swatter. “Stay!”
“Lie back down!”
“Down boy! SIT!”
“Good boy. Lie down.”
I lie down. But now I want my blanky! I look up to my doc. He’s holding a pillow, like a shield. For me, it’s a blanky. I point. “Can I…”
He puts the cushion under his butt and sits on it. Now he’s mad at me. He’s mad at me and he doesn’t like me.
And he’s scanning his notes again, shaking his head. I have to pee.
“Irv, you’ve got a million reasons why you’re not shopping your books, but it all boils down to, as you put it, ‘It won’t make a difference.’ And it won’t if you don’t try. But you’re NOT trying, because you’re afraid of rejection. You’d rather do nothing than hear, “Not good enough.”
“But maybe I’m not.”
“Stop that! You think anyone enjoys hearing ‘Not-Good-Enough’? You think everyone accepts that? You think we all give up after the first rejections?”
“So why are you?”
“Let me tell you something, I. H. Podolsky. Real writers don’t give up after a few tries, or a few months…or even years. You don’t like hearing, ‘Not good enough’? Buddy, you already bought into that. You gave up!”
“A writer with real confidence keeps pushing ahead, try after try, until he makes some headway and improves. Eventually she gets some positive results, a little success here, a little one there, tiny pieces of proof that gives a writer the encouragement to keep writing…and selling. And the more you do that, the better writer you become. The better seller you become.”
I’m squirming. I really need that pillow.
“That’s what winners do, Podolsky! They push past their limits, their fears, and they finish the race. They finish the book, they get it out everywhere, they tell everyone they can about it, they risk rejection, and they start their next book. That’s what real writers do. They submit ideas to the world because they believe in them. Do you believe in your ideas, Irv?”
“Tell me like you mean it!”
“I BELIEVE IN MY IDEAS!”
“Then OFFER them to the world and stop looking for validation! If you measure your value by how many people agree with you, you will never move to the front of the pack. You’ll stay buried in the crowd.”
“I’ll offer! I’ll offer!”
“And risk rejection?”
“I’ll risk rejection!”
“GOOD! We’ve made progress!”
“Can I have the pillow now?”
“NO! I’ll see you next session.”
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