Michael Jordan can teach a girl a lot about writing.
Well, not writing per se, but the pursuit of dreams and goals. That's what writing is all about.
Last night I sat down with my husband, a die-hard Michael Jordan fan (he followed him when Michael had hair and played for North Carolina), to listen to Jordan's acceptance speech at the Hall of Fame ceremony.
I've always considered Jordan to be a class act, so at first, his neener-neener speech was kind of ... off-putting. He talked about how he got his competitive spirit. That spirit had its roots in proving other people wrong. He talked about how, when he got cut from the varsity high school basketball team, he wanted to prove that his coach had made a big mistake.
Other naysayers along his path had been, as he put it, "wood on the fire." Basically, his acceptance speech, except for one very kind comment about teammate Scotty Pippen, was one how-do-you-like-me-now remark after another.
Or it was at first blush.
About halfway through it, I realized his speech wasn't just a "neener-neener." He really was thanking them. He was admitting that, if they hadn't told him what he was after was impossible, that he wasn't good enough, he wouldn't have become Michael Jordan.
Huh. Now that was enlightening for a girl like me. It occurred to me that some of the biggest moves I'd made in life were in response to people who said, "Ennnh. Can't be done."
People told me only rich kids went to college. I won a full honors scholarship and graduated magna cum laude.
An editor told me that I shouldn't enter the Georgia Press Association's competition for Best Humorous Column. "It'd be like dropping a rose petal in the Grand Canyon," he said. I did, and I won first place the very first year I entered.
My husband told me it would take me three years to finish a book for the first time. I finished it in three months.
My husband rolled his eyes when I pointed to the First Sale Column in the Romance Writers Report and told him my name was going to be in there one day. "Right," he said. "Keep dreaming." Two months later, my name was in black and white.
Unlike Michael Jordan, I didn't realize that what goosed me was proving naysayers wrong. I'd thought all this time I needed warm and fuzzy affirmations from those around me. I thought negativity was bad for you, that it would tear you down and kill your spirit.
And maybe it would. But something else happened this very month that tells me maybe MJ is onto something.
My daughter, bless her heart, came home with a fundraiser for school, three-pound tubs of refrigerated cookie dough at fourteen bucks a pop. The brochure came with incentive prizes: sell twelve items and you get to go to a Mega Party. Sell thirty items and you get a chance to spin the money wheel. Sell an impossible amount and you get to take a lunch-time ride in a limo.
That's a lot of dough. BOTH kinds of dough.
We live in a small town, and having a product that you can't sell easily to out-of-town friends and family makes it dang hard. It's even harder when every kid in the elementary school is selling the same thing. I told the Kiddo, "Sweetie, don't get your hopes up. People can't really afford to buy cookie dough at $14 a pop. I just don't think you'll make the Mega Party."
She cried. I cried. I admit I did the dumb thing and called the superintendent and fussed at him for ever allowing such a fundraiser go forward.
But she didn't give up hope. Every afternoon, she got her dad to take her around to peddle her cookie dough. Yeah, she got some "no's." But so far she's gotten fourteen yeses. And she's made that Mega Party I didn't think she could attain. I guess I put wood on her fire.
I think, in light of Michael Jordan's speech and my daughter's success, I owe the school superintendent an apology ... and I need to rethink how I look at naysayers. I need to look at them as if they're wood on my fire.