The Breakdown of Being “Too”
Marie Croke is a Fantasy and Science-Fiction writer who won first place in the Writers of the Future Contest with the story “Of Woven Wood.” She has since gone on to have stories published in places such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, and DreamForge Magazine. She lives in Maryland with her family, all of whom like to scribble messages in her notebooks when she’s not looking. She attended the 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop.
Many people, especially us creatives, suffer from bouts of insecurities. We’re constantly questioning whether we belong, whether we’re good enough, skilled enough to become the success we dream to be. In my experience, those insecurities have a culprit: the word “too.”
We’re “too old” to start a new skill; we’re “too young” to understand one. We’re “too uneducated” to have something worthwhile to say; we’re “too jaded” to think we could contribute anything new. We’re “too afraid” of rejection; “too confident” to take criticism.
And worst offender of all: we’re “too late.”
Too late to start; too late to rejoin; too far behind to ever catch up to that amorphous destination we think we should have already achieved.
This is where I found myself before Odyssey: in that state of thinking I was “too late.”
I’d sold a few stories, won a prestigious contest, and indie-published a book, but that had been years ago, as if it’d happened to someone else in another life, another world. Then I’d needed time to step away, to combat personal demons, to refind my love of writing by removing the onlookers over my shoulder. But jumping back into the submission game, with my rejection number slowly inching up once more, I couldn’t help but feel as if I’d lost my chance, as if there was some single moment I’d missed out on and now that it was gone so too was my ability to be a writer.
So I came to Odyssey looking for direction.
I wanted to figure out what might I be doing wrong, what bad habits I may have picked up without knowing, what writing techniques I had been missing out on. I came to Odyssey in the hope I’d be able to craft a new moment, a new chance, but that hope was mitigated by that word “too” constantly singing in my mind.
During my six weeks being inundated with an entire class of other like-minded people from all over the world, I found that yes, yes I can craft not one, but many, many new moments for myself.
What I discovered was that I had been far too wrong in my thinking of the word “too.” That chances aren’t single moments; they’re the accumulation of many moments. Whether those moments are done in writing—constantly pushing my craft to be better—or whether those moments are done in submissions—constantly putting my words under editor scrutiny—or whether those moments are merely the conversations between writer friends—bolstering one another at our lowest points and celebrating our achievements
That every time I learn something new, I get to try that out in my fiction. Every time I receive criticism, there’s a chance I can become a more in-tune writer. Every time I submit is another opportunity to sell. Every time I meet someone new, it’s a chance to find someone to stand beside in solidarity.
That being “too late” doesn’t exist, because the world of publishing is always welcoming, whether you’re a first-time writer or keep coming back, and filled with people who are all using the same words to tell the stories only they can tell.
At Odyssey, I got the chance—one of many—to rewrite the way I think about that word “too,” helped along by the friends I made, Jeanne’s impressive ability to pick apart worries and reconnect them into confidence, and the six long weeks of sleepless nights of immersing myself in words.
I’m “too focused” not to keep going. I’m “too in love” with writing stories not to keep writing them. I’m “too full” of experiences and emotions not to have them sweep into my stories. I’m “too excited” for tomorrow to let yesterday drag me down.
And you are “too.”