Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and Me

I never met Steve Jobs; I wish I had. Like millions of others, his life's work has greatly influenced mine. I'd like to say that I would write books even if I had only pencil and paper, or only a typewriter. I might, but I'm not sure. But why Steve Jobs, in particular?

I didn't become an Apple fanatic until 2007. Like so many others, my business ran on Windows products so I thought the conversion would be overwhelming. It wasn't until I closed my art gallery and bought a laptop with the express idea of writing a novel (a fresh start) that I felt no barrier to switching products. I have been writing for four years now, yet I'm still not published. A good friend with a good heart recently asked me why I'm not published when so many other people are. I made a few self-effacing jokes and thought I'd let that comment die... and yet I can't.

Malcolm Gladwell is famous for extolling the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any given field. Because I was not an English major in college (even though reading, writing and academia have been a major influence on my entire life), I believed that I needed to put in five years of writing before I could hope to be good enough to be published. Time will tell, true, and the death of Steve Jobs reinforces that fact. No one begins with perfection.

Looking back, the first Macintosh computer now looks like a dinosaur, a laughable relic. The iMac on which I now type is sleek, elegant and sophisticated—a masterpiece. Yet if Steve Jobs had never released the original Macintosh, this computer would not exist. Nor would the current iPhone, Nano or iPad.

Why am I not yet published? Because I am not yet as good as Ann Patchett or Jonathan Franzen. I am hypercritical of my work and anxious for it to be better. I'm also kind of shy. Stretching out of my comfort zone to pitch a novel that isn't as good as (insert any literary masterpiece here) stops me from sending out the quantity of query letters necessary to find the right agent to rep me. Instead, I finish a novel (I've completed three), send out a few queries, then immediately start on my next story knowing it will be better, it will be good. My standard of good enough is as high as Steve Jobs' must have been, but it apparently didn't hold him back and I cannot let it hold me back.

In 2005, Jobs gave a now-famous commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University. In that speech he said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." I love writing. I am confident that I will be published, and thanks to Steve Jobs, I will no longer be shy about what I have created. My first published work will probably not be the great American novel; that's okay. The important factor is where it will lead me.

With enough love, persistence and luck, maybe one day I will write a novel that is as delicious as an Apple.

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