You Don’t Have “It”

I’m a big fan of The Gilmore Girls, which is unfortunate, since I usually have a class on Tuesday night when it airs and have to remember to record it and often don’t find time to watch it when I do. Anyway, the other night I saw (finally) the episode where Rory is told that she “doesn’t have what it takes” to be a journalist, and it crushes her.

Old as I am (and I’m not tellin’) I identified with her because 1) she apparently didn’t have “it” because she was behaving like a “good girl”–trying to do everything that was asked of her, but nothing more because she didn’t want to get in trouble, and 2) I was once told something very similar when I was just a bit older than she. It didn’t have anything to do with being a journalist (which is what I got my undergrad degree in) but it was for similar reasons. I was too quiet, not out-going, not agressive enough. And that much was true. I am quiet and reserved. At least I was when I was 21. I’ve been living for almost 30 years with a man who knows how to mingle, so I’ve improved a bit since then.

And I got to thinking about peoples’ reactions to that sort of news. I wanted Rory to get mad and decide to show him he was wrong, rather than giving up her dream, rather than accepting his rather facile assessment. It made me think of that old story that’s told about dancers and violinists, about the maestro who tells a student they don’t have “it” and the student gives up and becomes a teacher of dance or violin instead. Years later the maestro and student now teacher meet again, and the maestro says he had no idea back when whether the student had “it” or not, but obviously he/she didn’t because if she did have “it”, she wouldn’t have given up. A large part of “It” is determination and the refusal to give up.

On the other hand, thinking back to my own degree in journalism and my rather checkered career in the field, it’s pretty obvious that although I got my degree, I really didn’t have “it” myself. Not for a heavy-duty career in the news business. What I really wanted, and what I refused to give up on was writing novels. The two are not exactly compatible.

For one thing, in journalism, making stuff up is frowned upon. I love to make stuff up. I make it up every day of the world–people, places, events, even whole universes and cultures. And other people give me money for doing it, instead of reprimanding me and firing me from a job.

For another, novelists get to hide from the world. Journalists have to be out there in the middle of it, willing to harass people for the information they want and need, or at least call them up and ask them questions. I don’t like doing that. I can do it, if I have to. But I don’t like to. I’m perfectly happy sitting in my office (now that I have one) staring out the window, or staring at the computer screen or the paper on my work table. I’d rather not talk to people all the time, thank you.

But I was lucky enough to know that this was what I truly, madly, deeply wanted and needed to do from a fairly early age. Everything else was material. Subject matter. Life.

So what is “It” and where does it come from? I think a lot of it is indeed that persistence and determination not to let the bastards get you down, if it’s something you truly, deeply want to do. What do you think “It” is? Isn’t it different things for different people? Different jobs?

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