It’s a moment I don’t look forward to. When the time comes, and my feet are held to the fire, how will I handle the question: “Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?”
My son, about to turn six two days after Christmas, is already starting to catch on. A kid in his kindergarten class doesn’t believe, and Liam’s letter to Santa this year asks why he can’t simply see the man in red when he shows up at our house on Christmas Eve.
It’s not just that I harbor some guilt for perpetuating this tradition of holiday trickery. I still vividly recall the moment when I cornered my mom into confessing there was no jolly, overweight man cramming himself down our chimney. It did change me. It snuffed out a light of sorts. A willingness to trust that things exist beyond what I can touch and see, hear and smell. I’d like to believe there’s magic still left in this world, but I struggle with it. I really struggle with it. I can’t help being skeptical of just about everything. Because, quite frankly, I don’t like being hoodwinked. And here I am now, hoodwinking my own kids.
This skepticism is an unfortunate impediment for me as a writer. Because I’ve been on the other side of the slush pile as an acquisitions editor, I know that it’s not only a long shot for anyone to get published, the odds of reaching bestseller status are almost the same as hearing sleigh bells on your roof on Christmas Eve. For most of us, it’s just not going to happen no matter how good our book is.
I love to write. It gives me tremendous satisfaction, and I share the dream of so many other writers out there who want to write our own stuff for living. It almost makes me physically ill to hear interviews with successful authors, because I feel like that should be me on the radio or the TV. I should be living that life. Nothing like some good old fashioned holiday envy, right?
But despite these passionate feelings, I have a novel that’s half my age waiting patiently on my hard drive for yet another makeover. It’s going nowhere. And my career as an author is going nowhere because of this inner skeptic. I can’t work on my book without wondering if I’m hoodwinking myself to think that this book will ever sell, that people will want to read it, that it will be worth the time and effort I put into it.
So here’s what I’m going to do. Just like with my kids, I’m going to tell you, my fellow aspiring authors, to believe in Santa. Believe that magic can happen. Visit a local bookstore (if one still exists in your town) and just take it all in. Look at all the books on those shelves. Each of those had an author who believed. Each of those exists because someone was willing to let go of an inner skeptic when he or she put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. Writing, creating a work of art, is a leap of faith, but one we have to be willing to take, because…well, what would happen if none of us believed? Would we be better off?
Happy holidays and keep writing!