One of my favourite films is Little Miss Sunshine. Its story of an odd-ball, dysfunctional family driving across America so the young daughter can take part in a beauty pageant is so funny that it makes me shriek with laughter – Uncle Frank’s running, the inappropriate dancing, the manhandling of Grandpa out of the hospital – I could go on and on. My husband and I watched it again recently, with the added bonus of introducing it to our daughters, who are now old enough to appreciate it. They loved it just as much as we did.
For all its absurdities, the film is not just about the laughs. The way the family come together to support each other is genuinely heart-warming. And there is one kick-ass message about aspiration and perseverance. When the family arrive at the beauty pageant, it is evident that daughter Olive is not going to stand a chance among the other highly preened and overly made-up contestants. But that has long become irrelevant, thanks to some wise words from Olive’s Grandpa. He’s not an obvious source of wisdom; he has been thrown out of his retirement home for taking heroin, swears profusely, reads nasty porn and teaches Olive some questionable dance moves. But when Olive is feeling nervous about the contest and says she is afraid of being a loser, he knows the right words to cheer her up; “A real loser is someone who is so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.”
I’ve been feeling a lot like Olive recently. Yes, I’ve had some rejections – an unpleasant event made even worse by the brief moment of exhilaration only to be crushed by inevitable disappointment. And it’s not just that. The more research I do, the more it seems like I am facing the impossible. I read blogs and advice pages, only to be reminded that thousands of others are attempting the same as me, and that the vast majority of them (us) never get picked up. Even the success of acquiring an agent is no guarantee of getting published. I’m only a few months into the process, but I feel that fear of rejection and failure. Not everybody can win in this game. There are many, many losers. No matter how much work and effort I put into my writing, I will be one of them if I don’t get that lucky break. And being a loser hurts. It would be so nice to never receive another rejection email, the thanks but no thanks messages that ping into my inbox. Why should I bother putting myself through this pain and humiliation? But then I remind myself that it only hurts because I care so much. I care because I have a passion for putting words on a page and a belief that other people will enjoy reading them. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. So I will keep trying, and be proud of myself for that. Even if I never win, I won’t be that person who never tried. Thanks, Grandpa, you are right. I’m not a loser – I’m a writer.