I reiterate this quote due to its importance. I'll also reiterate, here, the fact that I remember Iain as roughly eight feet tall.
I'm 6'3", in my prime and a mixed martial artist. I'm not exactly tiny or scrawny by sci-fi geek standards, but I remember Iain standing over me like Jabba versus Bilbo. (That would make an awesome comic book.)
Here's another seemingly random fact: I love reading.
People in the industry seem like giants to me, and I find it amusing that it actually gets a physical representation in my memory. You might ask yourself how a hero-worshiping nerd like me could get into the industry, and this would be a very relevant question.
You see, I had written on my own for a long time, comparing my work to only the best, which is always very important, but that's all I did. I'd read Bob Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Guy de Maupassant, and strive to make my stories as good, and since they weren't as good (and still aren't) I didn't submit them anywhere.
Finally, in a fit of despair, I allowed a friend to send two unpublished short stories to one of the biggest agents in the world. "The worst that can happen," I thought, "is she'll not reply, which leaves my inbox looking exactly the same as before." I only had hope in the self-destructive sense, occasionally imagining her wanting me and weeping tears of joy, knowing that what would really happen is I'd be crushed, regardless how often I told myself that it wouldn't matter.
Leslie Gardner got back to me with some advice on how to make my stories better. She didn't mention anything about wanting me for a client. I despaired. I was out with my brother at the time, and we had a long conversation in which he basically told me that I should email her before she'd forget my name. I kept despairing. My gal told me that Leslie obviously did think something of me or else she wouldn't have bothered offering advice. "She didn't think enough to offer more than that," I insisted, "and that's the point."
In a final fit of despair, having nothing to lose, I sent Leslie a fairly long email in which I thanked her for the advice and said I'd kind of, "in the back of my bouncy, aspirant brain," I said, hoped that she'd be my agent.
She got back to me and said, "Sure, I'd love to work with you."
WHAT!?!!?!?!?!!?!??!?!?!?!?!?! I'm now represented by the same gal who represented one of my favourite authors of all time.
The theme of our little story is that we shouldn't let ourselves get so focussed on the mountain top that we forget the path. Good things don't come to those who wait. That's loser talk. Good things come to those who stop waiting and start trying. I was doing it completely wrong. Had I not decided to change my method in a fit of self-destruction, I'd still lack professional prospects. Your author heroes aren't bigger or better than you, and you shouldn't be afraid to attempt joining their ranks. If you're good, they want you there (see Marketability Means Marketing Part One: Don't Agonise). What I learned from all this is exactly what to do, because it's the exact opposite of what I had been doing.
So, what's the opposite of living in your own head? Getting out into the world.
What's the opposite of not showing your work to anyone? Showing it to everyone!
What's the opposite of being timid? Being brave. I was always being brave in the financial sense and in that I was willing to sacrifice anything. But what's the opposite of living in your own head? What's the opposite of living within what you tell yourself? Telling others, so send your work out there for others to read.
All you can do is the best you can, so write your stories and let the world decide.