I went into Walmart to pick up a few items. I only needed taco supplies for dinner and didn’t plan to spend too much time in the store—just a quick aerobic workout. I’m sure you’ve had one of those shopping trips.
Instead of getting a buggy, I picked up one of the blue baskets and dashed off to the produce department. I grabbed an avocado and a head of lettuce, then I scurried to the back of the store to get chips and salsa. I almost forgot the taco shells and seasoning but turned around and added them to the basket. I remembered I needed sugar and milk so I took off down the aisle to grab the sugar, watching for an empty buggy because the basket was getting heavy. Wouldn’t you know it, I was in the store at a time of day when the aisles were spotless and there were no lonely abandoned buggies?
By now, I started to sweat. My legs felt a little wobbly. Did I mention that I had failed to eat breakfast before going to the store?
The handles were straining to carry the weight of the basket’s contents so I folded them down and propped the basket on my hip bone. With renewed strength and motivation, I headed to the back—the way back—of Walmart to get my milk. I remembered I needed bar soap but absolutely could not go to the beauty section all the way in the front and at the opposite side of the store. I took a peek on the laundry aisle and found a few selections of bath soap. Yay! They weren’t the cheapest bars of soap but they were convenient and would save me from walking another mile and collapsing in the store. So I grabbed them and then remembered we needed breakfast bars (I probably remembered because my blood sugar had bottomed out by this point.) so I tucked myself into that aisle and grabbed a box of bars.
As I turned to head back to the main aisle, my bars of soap flew out of the basket. Okay, so picture this: a gallon of milk in one hand, a bulging basket on the opposite hip. I was praying for Jesus to return because I didn’t think I was going to make it to the cash register. I thought about leaving the package of soap right there on the floor in the middle of the aisle. It was so far down to the floor! Instead, I squatted to pick up the soap, balancing the basket on my left thigh. And then it happened.
I could not stand up.
Could not even begin to launch myself out of that squatting position.
The first thing that came to my mind was that I was going to end up on that “People of Walmart” website. I literally was sweating! I was talking to myself OUT LOUD, coaching myself with the most ridiculous motivational speech. “You can do this. Stand up!” I guess it would have been easier if the knee that I needed to push myself up with wasn’t my bad knee. No, that wouldn’t have been easier because that would’ve meant that I would’ve been kneeling on my bad knee and I would’ve already fallen out on the floor. Where were the crowds of people when I needed them? On any other given day at any other time of day, the store would have been crowded and someone would have been standing nearby to help me stand.
So I prayed. Was I there for hours?
No, I’m sure I was only in this desperately stuck position for no more than a minute. I finally used my gallon of milk to launch myself up off the floor, leveraged the basket on my left hip again, shoved that package of soap as far down into the basket as I could get it to go, and headed to the front.
Wait! I needed chicken. OMG! So I rerouted and went to the meat department, where a store employee gave me the oddest look. She twisted her mouth and then smiled. I think she was laughing at me on the inside. I said something about only needing a few items when I first came into the store, blah, blah, blah. She didn’t need to hear my story—not while my shin bones were cracking under the weight of the fifty pounds of groceries I carried.
I finally made it to the cash register, plopped my basket onto the conveyor belt, put the milk down, and let out a huge sigh. One that caused the cashier and the customer in front of me to turn and look at me. I was shaking like a leaf trying to fall off a tree in the fall, sweating, and was ready to pass out.
How in the world was I going to make it to the car? I mean, I really thought I would pass out at this point. The room became dark and just when I thought I would fall out on the floor, it was my turn to check out. I saw a buggy over by the water fountain (thank you, Lord!) and retrieved it.
All was going great until I realized I had forgotten the ground beef! How could I have tacos without ground beef? And it’s Walmart, remember, so the meat department was too far away for me to ask the cashier and the customers behind me to wait while I went and got one silly little pound of ground beef. And it wasn’t Publix or Kroger so no friendly bag boy or customer service person would go grab it for me. I made an executive decision to forget about the beef.
I checked out and pushed my buggy outside to the car. While I unloaded the groceries into the backseat, I decided to get my husband to stop on the way home for the beef. No, I couldn’t ask him to do it. I was right here at the store. So what did I do? I went back inside and got the beef. Where’s the beef? Too far from the door, that’s for sure. I remembered a few more things I needed so I grabbed them but that was it! I hadn’t even grabbed a basket this time because I wasn’t going to fall for that trap again!
I really thought I would pass out by this time but kept telling myself this was my aerobics for the day, it was good for me to expand my lungs and stretch my legs, and that this was a lesson to never leave the house for the store without eating first.
So what does this have to do with writing?
The journey to publication and beyond can be like my trip to Walmart. You start out thinking you only need a few things to accomplish your goal. You grab the smallest amount of education you can get because you’re writing the next best seller and you don’t have time to acquire the tools you need to achieve success. No, that would slow you down.
This way of thinking means you’re not really prepared for this writing road. You starve your brain of knowledge like I starved my body of sustenance by not eating before I went shopping. As you walk this road, you add little bits and pieces of knowledge to your bank and your writing improves. You get the confidence to submit to agents and publishers but your hope flies out the window when you get that first rejection—just like my soap flew out of my basket. You hear of writer friends signing three and four book contracts and you fight the feelings of jealousy that crowd your mind.
That’s when your goal seems too far away, like the beauty department when I needed the soap, and you stall out. You drop to the floor and think you’re never going to get up again. You talk to yourself. You pray. And eventually, if you’re really called to this task, you get back on your feet.
This may be where you are right now on this journey. What do you do? The only thing you can do if you’ve got a message inside that must come out. You press on toward the goal. Eventually, you make it to the check out and even when you realize you forgot something you need, you finish what you started. That’s how all writers move from being an unpublished to a published author!
Although my shopping trip to Walmart was unnecessarily complicated and absolutely wore me out, it taught me an important lesson. First, never underestimate your surroundings. Go ahead and prepare for the journey by getting the buggy instead of the basket. You never know what this road will throw your way. Next, no matter how weary you become, press on. Even when your will weakens and you don’t see how you’ll ever make it to the end of the road, don’t give up. You see, eventually, I made it home from Walmart. I cooked my chicken and my ground beef and had them simmering in the crock pot all day. We had a delicious family meal that I didn’t have to do much slaving over. And the same is true about my journey to publication!
In the words of my writing mentor, Onward!
Photos: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/824202, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1415376, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/692911, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/63748