My childhood love affairs with the famous Dragon Coaster and the New York Mets prepared me for the ups and downs of a creative career.
The anticipation. The ascension. The dips. These are all part of every roller coaster ride. And every season, every game ( sometimes every inning). And they all play roles in most creative careers, too.
Just entering historic Rye Playland filled my youthful heart with magic and wonder. When I was straddling the middle between Kiddie Land and the Big rides, I would wait in line, standing tall, working a nasty little hole in the tip of my sneakers, hoping, praying I'd make the height line. I used to base my summer's success on the number of visits my family made to Playland.
When I finally made it onto the Dragon Coaster,I remember that queasy feeling that crept from my stomach to my head as we boarded the ride cars, buckled in for a wild, raucous, three minute romp. Kids would titter, giggle, laugh even before the ride started. The laughter, the screaming reached a crescendo as we took our first big, thrilling dip.
I loved it all. Until. Until the summer I turned seventeen and got a job ( actually begged for a job) as a relief ticket-taker. I'd roam the grounds of the hallowed Playland, proudly wearing my red and white striped carnival barker's shirt, filling in for the regular ticket-takers on a variety of rides, including my beloved Dragon Coaster. Somehow turning kids away and getting lambasted in a compendium of United Nations' languages sapped all the majesty and mystique out of the Playland experience.
But I still had--and have--my Mets. Hooked on New York's other baseball team by my dad, who had been a fervent Brooklyn Dodgers' fan, I inherited his love for the underdog Amazin's ( and , come to think of it, all underdogs, not to mention my love of writing). I'm too young to remember the 1969 Miracle Mets, but I do know they clinched the World Series against the Orioles on October 16-my mom's birthday. And I'll forever hold Tug McGraw's 1973 inspirational anthem, " You Gotta Believe," in my heart. It's seen me through many hapless seasons. And the glorious 1986 championship season ( here's where Red Sox fans can use the boost), and near misses in 1999 and 2000, a pair of crash-and-burn Septembers in 2007 & 2008. It's helping me hang in this injury-riddled year, hoping, waiting, knowing a recovery is imminent, a comeback is in the offing.
And so it is with my creative career, too. I love the whole shebang--from conceiving a project to executing it; from launching it into the world to fielding feedback from audiences and readers. It's all part of the process. And you have to love it all to make any of it happen. I love the possibilities of a new project, all the details that get discovered, the stories that are fleshed out along the way. I yearn for success, of course, but I embrace the failures too. I've even developed a perverse sort of love for rejection letters. Each one is a symbol of my committment to my work. People have a right to say no. They can't get it right every time. And neither can I. But every stumbling block, every obstacle, they are all part of the thrilling ride.
If you come to play, be prepared to work hard and practice. Accept that you'll strike out a few times. But if your disciplined, you'll get to run the bases. And if you work hard enough and if you're truly lucky you may just hit one out of the park.Maybe even two. Or three.
Hey, you gotta believe!