Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Are We Still Dreaming Of Power Wheels?

If you were an 80s or 90s kid, it's likely that you remember Power Wheels. To a poor kid like I was, these babies were like the Holy Grail of toys. I'd only ever seen them in commercials or at the store. No one I knew had one. I was smart enough to know I'd never get one, but dreamed about what it would be like nonetheless. I mean, it's a CAR. What kid doesn't want to drive their very own mini-sized car? I remember dreaming about how cool I'd be if I had one, how all the kids in the neighborhood would want to play with me.

And then my cousins got a Power Wheels jeep.

Oh, I was jealous. I think my little brother was even more so. It wasn't fair—they got everything! And that wasn't an exaggeration. At the time, they had way more money than my family, and it seemed like every time we saw them they were waving some new toy in our faces. As a kid, it's hard not to wonder, "Why can't I have those things? Why do they get everything? Why is life so unfair?"

I like to say that the biggest lie of adulthood is that it's somehow drastically different from being a child or teen. Well, so far it's not. I'm only 28, but seriously, I've been relearning the same lessons I have since I was a kid.

Maybe I don't care about Power Wheels anymore, but being jealous and feeling "lesser" over an object or achievement or opportunity is not something I've outgrown. And you know what? I see a lot of adults acting as petty as jealous kids when they see someone else get what they want. Me included. The Power Wheels turn into designer clothing or making sports teams or getting kissed first. It turns into getting into a prestigious college or buying a house or getting that promotion.

And yes, of course I'm applying The Power Wheels Principle to publishing.

Because there is a Power Wheels mentality, a publishing scenario we all dream about—a multi-book deal for a butt load of money from a major Big Six house, with marketing and tours and high profile blurbs and foreign sales and every bell and whistle imaginable.

Let's face it, most of us wouldn't cry if someone handed us a Power Wheels, right? And there's no shame in that. Power Wheels are awesome! Way, way awesome...so awesome that sometimes we forget about all the other toys out there that are also pretty cool...so awesome we forget about how much our own toys are worthwhile...so awesome we might even start to think that our family doesn't love us because they can't get us a freaking Power Wheels.

It sounds a little ridiculous, maybe even childish. But I've not only gone through my own full on, year-long, adult tantrum over not getting my Publishing Power Wheels, I've seen a lot of other writers do the same.

It's so easy to be blinded by that jealousy, to wonder why so-and-so got the Big Fancy Deal and you didn't. Unfortunately, there's no real answer, just like there was no reason my cousins "deserved" a Power Wheels more than my brother and me. They just got one. And we didn't. That's it. Looking back, I know that said nothing about my value as a child, even though back then it felt like it did.

And the biggest secret of all?

Power Wheels weren't that great. When my cousins let me have a turn on theirs, I was surprised at how slow that thing was. And the batteries didn't last long. And my old bike actually could go faster. Turned out the Power Wheels jeep wasn't as great as I thought it'd be. It was still a cool toy, but it was only a toy. Just like my other toys, but with more hype. Once I saw the reality of it, I realized my jealousy had been vastly misplaced.

The same is true for publishing. Yeah, Power Wheels are still cool, but they come with their own drawbacks, too. We can either let the "glamour" of them consume us, or we can realize that our value doesn't have a price tag. There are so many other ways to publish, so many other toys, some of which may fit you better than a Power Wheels anyway. Rather than pouting over who gets what and why, isn't it better for us to share and enjoy?


  1. At first I read Power Heels and I was very confused. Conjured up ideas of color coordinated suits (complete with shoulder pads) and heels. The actuall comparison is much, much better.

  2. I actually did have a Power Wheels as a kid. One Christmas at my grandmother's house, there was one for me and one for my cousin under the tree. (Which we promptly jumped on and rode through the house before our parents could stop us.)

    The cool part for me wasn't that I got the toy, but that the person who bought them didn't automatically assume I wanted the "girl" car, unlike most people who buy gifts at Christmas. I got the same "Police" motorcycle my male cousin did.

    And just so this isn't a total post hi-jack, I'll make it relevant ;-)

    Stereotypes are bad. Don't assume the girl writes girly things or reads girly things because, in reality, there are no "girly" things. There are only things and those things should be freely enjoyed by anyone who chooses to use them.

    (That, and toy stores should have sections where there's a sample of the more expensive toys to play with.)

  3. Great post, Natalie. I think it's just plain old human nature to want what someone else has, to think it must be better than what we've got. Yes, it is better to enjoy and celebrate the shiny toys and great success of others, and I think we DO get better at it as we get older, but those feelings are likely never too far below the surface.

  4. Yep, I'm turning 28 this year and back in March all I could think about was, "why not me?" and then I ended up talking to the editor in chief at my publishing house, and learned that I just need to keep going, no matter what happens, keep going.

    I'm glad you're still going btw, and I'm looking forward to your debut!

  5. I agree. We are the same as kids, because we're human. The only difference is that we can hide our insecurities and jealousies much better. We've had plenty of practice. ;)

    I was the poor kid who yearned for a Power Wheels too. They looked like vehicles of unabashed freedom and I wanted it. Instead, I had skates. And to this day, my legs are stronger for it. :)

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  7. Great post, Natalie. It reminds me, tangentially of a post on Jenny Herrera's blog about what success means and how one person's idea of success (or Power Wheels) should be different from another person's idea. Success should mean different things. One size does not fit all and one kind of publishing is not 'less' than another kind.
    Having said that, I was so traumatized by not getting a Power Wheels when I was a kid that I bought one for my daughter when she turned 3. Overcompensating for kids, as usual!

  8. You are so right! I remember when my brother and I had a power wheels jeep and at first it was so cool... but then it got really boring because it had to be charged for five hours to ride it for 20 minutes or so. And you're right, I've found myself jealous that other authors even get a request for more work after a query.

    But this post will definitely help me keep my priorities straight now and in the future. Thanks so much for sharing! :)

  9. Oh wow this takes me back...I wanted the pink convertible Barbie Power Wheels. I was too big for it (at least that's what my mom always told me) but I do remember once I saw a neighbor girl with one, I didn't think they were as cool.

    That kind of envy gets me still now too. Like with friends whose lives seem so perfect or like you mentioned, authors who seem to have an easy time of it on the publishing road. But like so many things, there's always much more under the surface.

  10. Power Wheels actually always looked dangerous and scary to me. (Yeah, I was that kid.) I wanted an EZ Bake Oven so bad I could scream, though. Which is ironic as it was probably the more dangerous toy in actuality. And then I got one as an adult, and y'know what? The cookies tasted like rocks.

    You're so right, though. It's so easy to look at what others have and be overwhelmed with envy. The irony is that there are aspects of every part of the writer's journey that are enviable and parts that aren't. Those Power Wheels writers have to miss some parts of being an unsigned, unpublished writer. Obviously, most love where they are and aren't complaining. But there's a certain joy and freedom in the earlier stages.

  11. I'd heard of these toys when I was a kid, but never got hold of one of them...

  12. I know the feeling as I'm guilty of it myself (even though I'm constantly trying to squish it down). Be happy for the now, for what I've accomplished for the place that I am. There are a lot of "toys" that would make me happy.

    I thought growing up and becoming an "adult" we'd leave the petty childhood jealousy and competition behind, boy was I surprised to realize it was simply different "toys" that we'd want. (cars, boys, houses, babies, and book deals included)

    Great post!

  13. Celebrating the successes of others is just good mo-jo. And then learning from they do well is just plain ol' smart.