By Sondra Whitt
We often look at successful people and think they somehow miraculously arrived at the place in life where we currently see them. We don’t see where they came from or the struggles and hard times they’ve come through. One of my favorite fiction authors, Dean Koontz, often answers questions from fans on his website. Nate, an aspiring author, quizzed Koontz about whether or not he ever experienced dizzying highs where he felt like he was the best author ever, only to then crash to the devastating lows of feeling like he had no talent whatsoever.
Koontz grew up in a very poor family with a violent, alcoholic father who frequently threatened to kill them all because life was too hard. He lived with the constant fear of not having a roof over his head and yet he was a happy, optimistic child who felt that every day mattered. Maybe, he says, because he really didn’t know how many days he would have. So he always looked for what was fun and beautiful and says that attitude is still with him. Here is Koontz’ tongue-in-cheek answer to Nate:
“Life is so amazing, Nate, so filled with potential for joy, and the act of writing is so exhilarating that I am perpetually optimistic. I’m not even troubled when I think about A HUGE HURTLING ASTEROID COLLIDING WITH THE EARTH AND WIPING OUT ALL LIFE BUT COCKROACHES, AND COCKROACHES CAN’T READ, SO IN A WORLD OF COCKROACHES, MY ENTIRE LIFE’S WORK WILL BE FOR NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING!!!! WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO, NATE? WHAT, WHAT, WHAT???? But as I wait for the asteroid that will obliterate me, as well as my collection of ceramic thimbles–my beautiful extensive collection of ceramic thimbles–I might as well continue to write my current novel, which has a storyline that’s totally got me pumped, and characters that feel as real as neighbors, even more real than the neighbors who live to the east of us. It’s so cool, this book, I’m really, really, really juiced. This book is going to knock people on their ass, Nate. Just like the HUGE HURTLING ASTEROID IS GOING TO KNOCK THE ENTIRE PLANET ON ITS ASS. AND WHAT IF THE COCKROACHES, MUTATED BY RADIOACTIVITY, GROW TO THE SIZE OF HUMAN BEINGS AND LEARN TO READ, AND MY BOOKS SURVIVE IN SOME BUNKER, AND THE COCKROACHES DON’T LIKE MY BOOKS? NATE, NATE, WHAT IF THE COCKROACHES LAUGH AT MY BOOKS? WHAT IF THE ULTIMATE FATE OF MY BOOKS IS TO BE HELD UP TO RIDICULE AS AN EXAMPLE OF HUMAN STUPIDITY IN A POST-NUCLEAR FUTURE WHERE INTELLIGENT COCKROACHES RULE THE WORLD? AND WHAT IF BY SOME FLUKE MY CERAMIC THIMBLE COLLECTION ALSO SURVIVES, AND WHAT IF THE INTELLIGENT MUTANT COCKROACHES USE THOSE DELICATE AND BEAUTIFUL SYMBOLS OF HUMAN EXCEPTIONALISM FOR SOME OBSCENE PURPOSE?!?!? MY BELOVED CERAMIC THIMBLES EMPLOYED TO DECORATE THE DISGUSTING GENITALIA OF GIANT MUTANT COCKROACHES! THE HORROR, NATE, OH, THE HORROR!!! Do I go through ups and downs, and self-doubt? You bet. And I’ve always suspected that the writers I find unreadable are, to a one, people with no self-doubt at all.”
Like Koontz, no matter where we came from, where we now are, what we’ve experienced or are experiencing — we can choose to be successful. We can choose to pursue our dreams. We can choose to fulfill our purpose. We can choose to live life deliberately instead of simply reacting to it. And along the way, we can expect to experience highs and lows as our self-confidence ebbs and flows, as we live life and deal with all it throws at us