I am not a Tim Tebow fan.
Yeah, there is actually more to the story than this. Basically, Tim Tebow is trying out for Major League Baseball. Like most people, I used this as a chance to make jokes about Tebow and laugh at the entire ludicrous goal of doing the hardest thing there is to do in sports – hit a fastball.
Then, I listened to an interview with Tim Tebow about his Major League Baseball dreams.
Basically, after stammering through an answer to an unheard question (which was probably, do you think you can make a team or something stupid like that), Tebow said these words:
“A lot of people will say, ‘What if you fail? What if you don’t make it?’ Guess what? I don’t have to live with regret. I did everything I could. I pushed it. I would rather be someone that can live with peace and no regret than “what if?” for being scared that I didn’t make it.”
So, the entire idea here should be clear when it comes to what it has to do with Shawn S. Lealos and why it is on my blog.
I am a writer.
That is easy enough to say, but it is also easy to see people who don’t take that very seriously. I am lucky. I have a wife who supports me as a writer and no one else in the world matters. She believes in me and that is good enough for me. Even if she wasn’t completely behind me, I still need to believe in myself. That is what will make me successful.
Learning Life Lessons Thanks to The Boz
The year was 1996 and I was in my first semester at the University of Oklahoma. I chose to sign up to work for the Sooner Yearbook and also took a class that was pretty much a free intern position for the Oklahoma Daily Newspaper. With the newspaper, I never felt comfortable, but things clicked with the yearbook, where I became one of their main sports reporters.
One day I was watching an OU football game on television (we split up game-day coverage between the three of us, and I was off that week). During the game, someone interviewed Brian Bosworth – The Boz. He was in a special section in the south end zone with seats he had purchased and given to kids from a local children’s hospital, inner-city kids in need, and kids whose lives were affected by the Murrah Federal Building bombing.
It was a great story.
I went to the Oklahoma Daily newspaper and pitched it. They thought it was a great idea and said they would give the story to one of their “more experienced” reporters. I was deflated but never gave up. I went to the yearbook and pitched it to them. They told me to get on it and it would be one of the year’s feature stories. I called the OU Athletic Office and they gave me Bosworth’s Hollywood agent’s telephone number. I called him and set up an interview. Then, Brian Bosworth called me and I interviewed The Boz.
I was 15 when Brian Bosworth was the best linebacker in the world while playing at OU. He was my freaking hero as a kid and I actually remember keeping a scrapbook of newspaper clippings about the guy. Here I was, my first EVER interview, and it was an interview with my childhood idol. And I nailed it. I also interviewed a nurse at the children’s hospital who had a son who played football until he lost his leg. A kid that Bosworth visited, took to a football game and helped to make him feel like a million bucks.
I wrote the story for the yearbook and it ended up winning a Story of the Year award for the yearbook.
I went back to the Oklahoma Daily newspaper while I was writing the story for the yearbook. I asked how they were doing on the story and they told me that their “more experienced” writer had not figured out a way to contact Brian Bosworth yet and was waiting to maybe catch him at a football game. I told them I had already interviewed him about it and they asked why. I mentioned that I was writing the story for the yearbook. They told me that I could write it for them too if I wanted.
So, I did.
It ended up as the cover story in a newspaper called The Red Zone, which was given out free to the over 60,000 people (at that time) that attended OU football games. It won me an honorable mention award for Best Periodical Feature Story at the Oklahoma Society of Professional Journalists ceremony that year. For a story that The Oklahoma Daily didn’t even want me to write. For my first ever interview – with a childhood idol.
I also wrote a “Where Are They Now” article for the nationally published Inside Sports magazine and got paid for it. My first ever payday for writing. For my first-ever interview. That I was told a “more experienced” writer should take on.
Because I never gave up when they told me no.
I wanted to cover the Rolling Stones when they came and played at OU. We were told by the OU ticket office that they would only credential the Oklahoma Daily and that the yearbook was not high enough on their list to give passes to. I called the Rolling Stones publicity office in Chicago and got the yearbook press passes to the concert. Because I wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I ended up winning a ton of awards for my journalism in college, including sweeping the Gold Circle Awards one year for Sport’s Feature Writing and taking first, second, and third place for the nation.
Because I didn’t take no for an answer. Ever.
The Years Roll On and The Story Stays the Same
I am 27 years older now and refusing to listen to people tell me no is harder than it was when I was 26 and roaring to make a difference.
However, I have to keep that attitude.
I have been a freelance content writer for the last seven years. Newspapers are a dying breed and there are almost no magazines left for freelance writers to make a living writing for. It is getting harder to write online and three of the biggest cash cows I wrote for have folded in the last few years. I can’t rely on them anymore.
My Stephen King Dollar Babies book didn’t do what I hoped it would and after a year on the market, I am only selling a small handful each month. I overestimated how many Stephen King fans wanted a book about King compared to those who just wanted books by King. That is ok. See, one thing I have learned from all the writer’s blogs that I read is that this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. My book will remain for sale and people can discover it later.
However, it is time to really get rolling on my new fiction series. Fallen Star comes out later this year and is the first book in my Steve Samson Chronicles, a contemporary fantasy novel series about a human police detective who lives in a world where superheroes are real and works to help normal people while those with superpowers battle in the skies above.
I have faith in my story and I believe it is something worth telling.
There are a lot of doubts in my mind, but those are just nagging voices trying to tell me that people don’t want to hear from me. That is something John Grisham once said – why would anyone care about his stories in bookstores filled with thousands of books? Guess what? People cared what John Grisham had to say. A lot of people cared.
With bookstores dying (there is about to be only one remaining in the Permian Basin area where I live – a Barnes & Noble), that means my book will live among the hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon.com. That is ok. I never took no for an answer when I was writing as a college student and I am not going to take no for an answer from the voices in my head now that I am finally taking on this task of starting a fiction career that I once dreamed of even before I started college at OU.
I Believe I Was Destined to be a Writer
See, I was going to a junior college and studying business back in 1995. I wrote a short story called The Devil’s Playground based on an urban legend from back home in Yukon, Oklahoma. My English teacher said she thought I was a great writer and asked why I was majoring in business. I said people told me to major in business to “get a real job.”
She mentioned that OU had a professional writing program in their journalism college, so I could learn fiction writing while also learning how to make money writing for newspapers, magazines, and more (the Internet then was in its infancy).
So, as you can see, I started at OU with the thought of being a fiction novelist. I got distracted by sports journalism, and later by filmmaking, before finally settling into freelance content writing for the Internet and working as a film critic, which I still love doing.
However, everything has revolved back to where it started – my first dream. It is time to be a novelist.
And this year, I will start that process with my first published fiction novel.
And I won’t take no for an answer.