Guest Blog: Six-Dollar Problems by J. Smith

I’m not shy about my M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Hell, I earned it. That said, I am also not shy about my fellow classmates – all of which whose creative talent astounds me. As a collective class, we would make one heck of a super story. Independently, we are all set to wow. This might be my confidence just talking, but I haven’t been that graced to be around such creative people since I mistakenly wandered into an acclaimed art school class thinking it was the bathroom. Yes, that actually happened.

Jeremiah is one of my fellow classmates whose writing style and writing habit I admire. He is a parent, as are so many other writers, and knows the struggle of balancing the everyday with the writing dream. When I need advice on keeping my head up or when I need a shove in my butt to keep pressing on this indie writer path, I turn to Jer.

Hats off to you, sir. I am so honored to have you post on my blog.

P.S. Jer, you still owe me a burger…

– A.W.

Six-Dollar Problems

Guest Blog by Jeremiah Smith

I’m sure a few of you souls that wandered in here are wondering why I’m writing about fast food burgers. Well, I ain’t. It’s not late enough and I’m not drunk enough to even attempt one of Carl’s belly busters. If that’s what you’re looking for, prepare to be disappointed. No, instead I want to talk about something else that will help you on your way to becoming a successful writer or in any part of your life for that matter: Dealing with the little things. Like being hungry.

Consider your growling belly the soundtrack to today’s lesson.

A little background: For years my daughter has been attending a local Hula class. She enjoys it because it’s fun. I enjoy it because I’m contrary in everything and it makes me feel superior to the other parents. It’s an evil win-win.

Anyway, there was another little girl that came on a semi-regular basis; enough that her mom bought all the little doodads that went with the outfits. These items were a point of contention between the instructor and the kid’s mom. The teacher claimed there was no record of the items being paid for. The mom swore up and down that she had. This went back and forth for like a month.

Finally, the mom was able to produce a receipt she’d found at the bottom of one of the many cavernous purses she lugged around. Eureka! After much hand-wringing the teacher finally gave the kid her things. It seemed like the whole issue was done. Finito.

A few minutes went by however, and we all realized that, hey, the teacher, and her mother who helped with the class, was just gone. Another ten minutes, no sign of ‘em. People got worried and started looking for the Hula-ninjas. They thought the aliens had taken them. Okay, I was hoping the aliens had taken them. Sue me for wanting an interesting life.

Eventually I was the one that located the pair and what I found was pretty pathetic. Two grown women, locked in the bathroom, having the world’s biggest hissy fit. We’re talking a tear-soaked, blubbering, snot-bubbled mess of a growl fest over this stuff.

“My business is ruined. Everybody wants me to fail. This is the last nail in my coffin.”

I knew even before then she wasn’t terribly successful yet. She only had like twenty students a week. But I also knew this level of hysteria was ridiculous. Why? Because the stuff she had to give to the mom was worth six bucks.

Six damn dollars.

That was going to make or break her. Really. A handful of dollar store trinkets and some item to go in the kid’s hair. It wasn’t hardly worth getting upset over. But, according to her, these were her undoing. It was the Apopalips (the Apocalypse’s sexier cousin)!

So, once I explained how I’d wound up in the ladies lou, I told her it was silly. She had a business that was slowly gaining traction but her tantrum was hurting it more than the loss of a few dollars. We’d missed half of class and were due refunds. A small problem became a monster truck-sized mess. The whole situation struck me as sad.

On the way home, I realized, that I’ve been there too. As a writer, I can attest that it’s hard not to sweat the small stuff, especially when there are a lot of small stuffs. Hell, I’ve sweated over contracts for less than six bucks. My first review netted me just enough money for three quarters of a combo meal at McRonald’s (sorry, more burger talk).

Constantly, I’m worrying if I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, if people like me. It comes with the territory, folks. And, it all erodes you. But only if you let it.

Yesterday, I missed my goal of writing my five script pages because I was fighting with my kids’ elementary school. Five pages a day doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re doing everything in your power to eek out a little work time as it is, it’s heart wrenching to know you didn’t make your goal. I could have let it stop me; allow the guilt and sadness to take over. But I didn’t.

I know it’s just a six-dollar problem.

You deal with it, see it for the small issue that it is, and move on. You can’t stop for these piddly issues and you can’t make them bigger than what they are. It’ll do you in.

I’ve been writing a little more than ten years. I can assure you there will always be disappointments, especially when you’re trying to get something off the ground as creative, challenging, artistic, and crazy as writing. The trick is to understand that a small setback is just that, small. If you screw up, learn from it. If you let yourself down, forgive yourself. Whatever it takes, don’t allow yourself to be stopped by a pebble in the road.

Forget about those six-dollar problems so you can concentrate on the six figure problems.

And now that I’m done, you can go about finding your six dollar burger too.

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