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?