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Lessons from Little Black Book

The Pulitzer Can Wait

By Norreida ReyesPublished 2 years ago 4 min read
Lessons from Little Black Book
Photo by Digital Content Writers India on Unsplash

Part of what drives me as a writer is that I KNOW there is a book inside me that is meant for the world. I have known that since I was 10 years old, but now, at almost 56 (April 26th!), I still haven’t found where that book is located inside my brain. My heart knows that it’s there, but I can’t seem to dig it out. I’m going to win a Pulitzer for my Great American Novel, my heart has told me since I first learned what that was. I can win this $20,000 Little Black Book contest, my heart insisted.

Um, no.

I read the winning and runner-up stories and the truth hit me like an alien realizing their device can’t ever call home. I am a mediocre fiction writer. Those top stories in Little Black Book were simple and powerful. The language was chosen as carefully as a poet. The authenticity moved me, made me feel I was right there with the protagonists in a way I have never been able to emulate. They were absolutely the right choices for wins.

I would give my right eye to be able to write like that.

We have been inundated with self-help messages that tell us we should not only strive for better, but that we already are better. I have seen so many people try again and again at a brick wall because someone who loves them, or worse, someone they’ve paid to coach them, says they just need to “know” they are better and they will become that. A spiritual version of Mary Kay’s “fake it ‘til you make it” message.

I have believed those messages myself, but I only have to read these winning stories to know that I am not there yet. Maybe I am a future Pulitzer winner, but there's a whole lot of marble around me that still needs to be chipped away and sculpted before that can be real.

The truth is, we can't rely on a life coach or loved one to tell us to believe in ourselves. It's nice, but what I need is to read the works of writers I admire, (including those here on Vocal), listen to the advice of the renowned authors on MasterClass, practice with colleagues at NaNoWriMo, and do the work to become the writer that I know is inside me. Speaking a mantra every morning or taking time to put a dream board on my fridge are just distractions.

It takes time and real work, with help from experts in our fields, to become the professionals we are meant to be. A big part of that is identifying and accepting where we are right now so we know how far we have to go.

This contest taught me a lesson that a little voice has whispered to me many times, but that I have ignored before now. I can’t create brilliant stories from scratch. Can’t do it. Not today. As a professional non-fiction writer for 20 years, I write two things: truth for general, high-school-reading-level audiences and facts for CEOs and legislators. Well, that’s not exactly it. I interview people and write their truths. I can also leverage those stories for marketing purposes, to sell a brand or personality. That’s who I am and what I do best. It’s no use chasing stars and money--I have talent but not genius. Not yet. (Teddy tried to teach me that, too, every time I’ve read Little Women.)

So, here on Vocal, I will do what I do best. I’ll share the people-in-your-neighborhood stories that I have uncovered over the years, but, for one reason or another, didn’t have a chance to publish. The names and locations will be changed to protect the innocent, but these upcoming stories are all true, as they were told to me. I’m going to stretch a bit, though, and instead of reporting the stories, I will present them from the originators' points of view. They won’t be literature, but they will help me bridge to the writer I can be someday while also giving you a peek into the lives of the masked people standing in front of you at the ATM or grocery store checkout lines.

I have met hundreds of people over the last five decades from coast to coast who have shared slices of their stories with me. Some because I have a sign on my forehead that says I care, (which I do), and some because I interviewed them as a journalist or marketing copywriter.

You'll hear from a truck driver. An exotic dancer. A costumer. A senator. Countless others. Vocal is a great place to share their stories while preserving their privacy. They deserve to be heard. And I need the practice. The Pulitzer can wait.

Stay tuned.


About the Creator

Norreida Reyes

I've served as a public policy analyst, journalist & advocate for women & children. People have more power than they know. I see the world for what it is & still own joy & humor. Above all, I'm simply a writer, fortunate to do work I love.

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