When I began preparing for my first bodybuilding competition, I didn't care about winning. I just wanted to be a participant, to fully absorb the bodybuilding experience, to do what what bodybuilders do. So, everyday — sometimes twice a day — I worked out at the gym. I practiced my compulsory poses and my posing routine until my muscles failed. I ate the same thing everyday: eggs, oatmeal, tuna, broccoli, chicken breast, and lots of protein shakes. I lost all but 3% of my body fat*. For weeks, I toasted myself in a suntan booth. The experience was grueling.
But as competition night approached, I decided that I wanted to be more than just a participant. I wanted to win. Not only because I wanted a trophy and a title, but because I wasn't sure I wanted to go through that experience again.
I've been feeling the same way about becoming an author.
Becoming a published author was hard. I wrote, revised, shared with critique partners, took an online children's writing course, revised again (about 27 times), submitted my manuscript to the publisher, and then waited a year-and-a-half (checking my emails everyday) to received the news that the book would be published. Do I want to experience this again?
At first, I wasn't concerned about who would illustrate this book should it get published. In fact, I felt it might behoove the publisher to select a bigger name illustrator. Someone whose coat tails I could ride into the limelight. I even submitted the names of a few illustrators I'd like to see illustrate this story. But, just like with my bodybuilding experience, the day is approaching when an illustrator will be selected. And now I want to win. In addition to being the author, I want to illustrate this book, too.
My publishers have invited me to submit artwork to a pool of illustrators that they are considering. I hadn't made up my mind if I would. My cartoony style isn't right for this story. Besides that, I don't have time. Too busy painting FARMER. Next is RON. But I'm going to feel awful about myself when this book publishes in two years, holding it in my hands and knowing that I didn't even try.
So, for the next few days, I'm setting everything aside, experimenting with a new style, and I'm going to submit a few cover ideas. If another illustrator is selected, I'll be OK with that knowing that I tried and didn't just pass an opportunity over. That I competed, and that the best person for this project won.
*I'm fat now.