Don Quijote expects all the castellans (castle owners) to have a feast laid out for him the minute he crosses the moat to their castle. How many times have we expected to be feted with editorial or agent success at conferences just to find out that we must cross hundreds of moats before one door will open?
In a scene, Don Quijote finds a young knave being whipped by his master. Our famous hero talks the master into understanding that he shouldn’t whip the boy. Faced with El Quijote’s unassailable arguments, the master agrees. This sends Don Quijote into spasms of joyful glee with success. Unfortunately, the master continues whipping the boy as soon as Don Quijote is out of earshot. How many times have we been sent soaring when an editor tells us that he/she loves our work just to be brought down to reality when our queries or even our agent’s queries go unanswered?
Don Quijote wanted to do one magnificent deed to prove his worth. Kill that giant/windmill and tell the world you are finally a real knight. Aren’t we all always trying to write the story that will tell the world that finally we are legit?
Don Quijote soars in his mind, just to be brought down to reality by his trusty squire Sancho Panza who keeps him on the true path. Don’t we all soar in our minds just to be brought back to the true path by our trusty critique groups?
And even when we succeed, we are afraid. We suffer from impostor syndrome. Maybe we’re just impersonating a real writer for a short time like Don Quijote impersonated a knight. We’re afraid that the second book won’t come. We have nightmares that we’ll be proven to be just one more wannabe.
My father was a great lover of Don Quijote. The huge book took up a place of importance on his shelves in Cuba. He had a little wooden statue of Don Quijote that he bought when we got to the United States. The noble knight was like a member of our family. So it wasn’t a big stretch for me to come up with the idea of a girl who pretends that she’s a knight like Don Quijote. And it was an even smaller stretch to realize how much like Don Quijote’s life is the life that I have chosen as a writer.
Even though this path that I have chosen is fraught with sweat, tears, and giants I must defeat, there is nothing to compare with the high you get when you get that call (in my case an e-mail from Croatia, where she was traveling) from that wonderful agent you’ve been lusting for. The call that your book (or four) finally sold, or the tears of happiness when you see the wonderful cover, the magic of seeing your words in print and the wonder you feel when you see “also by ….” In the end papers.
In the end, Don Quijote made peace with himself. He understood the truth of what his life had been. As for me, I may never reach all my dreams, reach all the stars I shoot for. I may not ever write a NYT best-seller or win the Newberry Medal, but I will never stop trying. I believe that windmills are always waiting.
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