Friday, June 29, 2012

Take Two: The Quarter in the Toilet

I'm away from home and not finding a lot of time to blog, so I thought I'd throw an older post up here that didn't get a lot of (read: any) pageviews the first time around. I originally published this in December of 2009, back when I had, like, two followers and was querying the project I queried BEFORE I queried Bob. That certainly puts things in perspective:) Anyway, hope you enjoy!

My husband teaches religion classes to high school students for a living. So he's always coming up with object lessons to teach different principles. One of my particular favorites is called "The Quarter in the Toilet." It involves herding the entire class into the bathroom and holding up a quarter. He asks them how much a quarter is worth and someone says, "Twenty-five cents." Then he asks them what its value is and someone says, a little slower this time, as if he's aged fifty years in a single moment, "Twenty-five cents." Then he chucks the quarter into the toilet and asks, "And what's its value now?"

Except for some enterprising freshman, most of his kids aren't willing to go in after it; to everyone but that freshman, the quarter actually has negative value now. Still, a quarter is a quarter is a quarter, in the hand or in the bowl. Whether they value it or not, that quarter is still worth twenty-five cents.

As a writer, I sure feel like a quarter in the toilet sometimes--especially when I'm querying. I often only feel as good as my last response, so when a rejection rolls in, my confidence dips. And when the rejections pile up, my confidence plummets.

But the truth is, my worth as a writer has nothing to do with how everyone else values my writing. My worth as a writer is defined by certain inherent characteristics--my talent, my passion, my desire--and those things never change.

It reminds me of Max Lucado's beautiful picture book YOU ARE SPECIAL. His main character, the much maligned Punchinello, only receives ugly gray dots from his fellow wooden puppets, and in a society built around public praise or scorn, those gray dots might as well be the plague. But then Punchinello meets Lucia, another wooden puppet who bears neither the stars nor the dots of her fellow townspeople. Punchinello asks her why her stickers don't stick, and she tells him: Because she cares more about what the woodcarver thinks than what the other puppets think. Because she knows her worth as a wooden puppet is intrinsic. It has nothing to do with how much the other puppets reject, or adore, her.

Now, obviously, constructive criticism is, well, constructive; I'm in no way suggesting that we don't consider and try to incorporate the feedback we receive. And it's pretty much impossible not to feel that tiny thrill when a request or, gasp, an offer of representation comes. But in the end, those things do not define us. In the end, we are worthwhile writers simply because we are.

Do I always think this way? Sadly, no. There are minutes and hours and days and weeks when I feel about as valuable as a quarter in the toilet. So this post is just as much for me as it is for you. I plan to look back at it whenever I'm feeling low. Because even when I don't believe it, I know it's true.

20 comments:

Ben Spendlove said...

I love this post and that object lesson. These concepts are oddly difficult to keep straight, and this helps. No matter how much value others place on you, your worth never changes. Thanks for reposting it.

Matthew MacNish said...

I don't think I'd even "met" you in Dec 2009, so I'm glad you reposted. This is a great metaphor, and it illustrates your point perfectly. Our value as writers doesn't really change, only our perception of it does.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Ben, it is a bit of a semantics thing, but I think the principle is sound. Whatever you want to call it, there is an inherent measure of a writer's worth, and it never changes, not even as the writer's skill level improves.

Yeah, Matthew, I was still really new to the blogging scene back in 2009. I can't believe it's almost been three years!

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

Yes, I had at least a YEAR of zero comments on my posts. Amazing that we kept blogging, huh? :D

I'm so glad you re-posted. This is so true!

Adam Heine said...

"I often only feel as good as my last response..."

This right here. All the time.

A.J. said...

Thanks for re-posting this. I've been feeling a bit like the quarter in the toilet lately.

I need an enterprising agent and/or editor to pluck me out of the water. :)

MaDonna Maurer said...

Loved this object lesson and how you applied it towards the writer's attitude/feelings. I can so totally relate.

Elaine said...

Keep recycling, Krista! This was a great post that deserved a big audience. :)

Suzi said...

Well this is a great post and so true. And I love that You are Special book--such a great lesson for kids. (and adults)

Brenda McKenna said...

I like the object lesson! Your husband is a smart teacher. And your application is smart, too. Thanks for the encouragement!

Melodie Wright said...

LOVE this post. I'm putting up one called Some Day tomorrow that's indirectly related to your point here. Obviously, great minds think alike. ;)

Leslie S. Rose said...

The quarter in the toilet analogy really hits home. I'm glad you brought this back, it's definitely a greatest hit. The creative world can make us feel so vulnerable.

Marcia Mickelson said...

What a great story. I'm always looking for good object lessons for when I teach the young women of my church.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

We must have kept blogging because we're so stubborn, Amy:)

Yeah, Adam, I know you've said that before, too. You know what they say about great minds and querying twins:)

A.J., keep at it! I truly believe what I said--our worth as writers never changes--so I hope you don't give up.

MaDonna, I find a way to apply most of Honey Bear's object lessons to my writing life:)

Thanks for the kind comment, Elaine!

Suzi, I love YOU ARE SPECIAL, too. I especially love how not even the public praise sticks to Lucia. That's the goal to shoot for.

Brenda, Honey Bear is a great teacher. I wish I could sit in his classes:)

Melodie, I'll have to check it out!

Leslie, it's so easy to feel like a quarter in the toilet in this industry. Even if you're a NYT-bestselling author, you're still going to have to deal with bad reviews and negative publicity, so it's a lesson we all have to learn.

It is a great object lessons, isn't it, Marcia? I believe he typically uses it to teach Doctrine and Covenants 18:)

Myrna Foster said...

Not to contradict you on your page views and whatnot, but not only do I remember this post (because it's awesome), I commented on it. I checked. ;o)

Kristen Wixted said...

Worth re-posting!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Myrna, I stand corrected! You're right--you did comment on this one the first time I posted it. You were one of those two followers I mentioned:)

Thanks, Kristen!

Kelly Bryson said...

I thought HB was going to flush the quarter down the toilet and talk about how much 25c could cost you...Nice reminder of our worth:) Hope you had a great 4th!

noellehenry said...

Krista, this is a great post and I'm so glad you re-posted it. It's so easy to measure our worth in what others think of us. I'm so guilty of that--especially when I get the 'good but not good enough' feeling. That's when I step back and realize that my love of writing is part of who I am. And that all the little pieces of me are worth a whole lot. :)

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Kelly, our Fourth was...interesting. It didn't feel much like a holiday. But we did get to see two fireworks shows from my parents' dining room while we played one of our favorite board games, so at least it ended on a good note:)

Noelle, so good to hear from you. I know EXACTLY how that good-but-not-good-enough feeling feels. Maybe someday I'll get over that and just feel good about myself all the time--but it's going to take a lot more practice:)