I've never had the good fortune of coming across a genie's lamp. It's probably just as well. If I did, I can see myself wasting my wishes on the usual crap - fame, fortune, exotic travels, perpetual youth, a gorgeous and intelligent partner...mmm, my mouth is watering.
But suppose I wanted to use my three wishes to bolster my writing career? What three things would I ask for then? That's a little tougher, but after some thought, I've come up with the following three requests.
1. Skin as tough as rawhide.
I could be wrong, but I believe at least all writers are at least somewhat sensitive people. We see things in a way others don't, and we use our words to share our unique perceptions. Any time you put yourself so far out there, you risk getting slapped down, and hard.
The ultimate question is how much the slap disables you. I know many writers who brood about rejections and negative reviews for months if not years and many others who can shake it off in the span of a few seconds.
Me, I still remember phrases from my first rejection letter - and it was a form letter. Needless to say, that kind of tenderness makes it hard to write letters of introduction and pitch publications with ideas.
Therefore, my first wish would be to grow a tougher exterior so I can get out of my own way when it comes to approaching publishers.
2. Lose my shyness
Writing an article for a publication almost always means interviewing strangers about unfamiliar topics. My self-talk during these interviews usually goes something like this: "I bet he feels this is a waste of his time. He probably thinks I'm stupid. I need to hurry up and get this over with. Why am I so afraid to ask challenging questions?"
The truth is probably the exact opposite. Most subjects are flattered that someone is interested in their experiences and opinions. They are worried about how they sound - not about how the interviewer sounds. They are willing to delegate a reasonable amount of time to an interesting interview. Finally, they may welcome challenging - though not hostile - questions as a way to clear the air of misconceptions.
My second wish, then, would be to lose the negative self-talk and approach interview subjects as interesting equals.
3. Trust my instincts
Years ago, I went on a two-week cruise to the Hawaiian islands. I longed to write an article about my experiences, but convinced myself that no one would be interested. Almost a year later, I was flipping through a travel magazine and found an article about the very cruise that I had taken. If I had pitched when the idea first popped into my head, maybe I still wouldn't have gotten the assignment...but maybe I would have. Or maybe I would have gotten a different assignment. Who knows?
The point is that in suppressing my instincts and talking myself out of a pitch, I quite possibly talked myself out of a paycheck as well. So, that's my third wish for the genie: no holding back on ideas that seem good at the time. If they aren't good, I know I can count on the editor to tell me. (See Wish #1.)
Of course, I'm unlikely to meet that magic genie. Even my brain isn't quite that far gone. But I can work diligently to make my own writing-related wishes come true. It won't happen in the snap of a finger, but with a lot of dedication and courage, it will happen.