Nov
23
2015

The Journey Begins, and Ends, With You

Like any other performance art, storytelling is at its finest when it appears effortless. Writers strive to balance dozens of factors when we plot, write, and revise our works. Even simple stories require significant thought, insight, and ability. While some people are born with a seemingly innate talent for storytelling, most of us spend years, if not decades, practicing our craft and developing the skills needed to turn an idea into a published work. Even with all that effort, all that passion, most of us who try to make a living at writing fail.

Wow. Bummer, right? Not at all. You see, there is a significant gap between failing and quitting.

While there are some few who strike it big with their first-ever manuscript, most of us are experts at failing. We start young in our career, agonizing over our works and beating ourselves up over every choice we make. Once we gain some seasoning, we proceed to collect stacks of rejection letters from agents and editors who don’t quite have a place in their stables for what we are selling right now, but thanks anyways. Personally, I frame mine and hang them on the wall in my office. Even after we publish, there are always the few for whom our words don’t click. Writers are given countless opportunities to quit. Those who are successful at the writing gig simply don’t. Ever.

To be a professional writer, you must have skill, creativity, and some business acumen. However, you must also have a fundamental bedrock of belief. We must believe that we can write a story worth reading. It’s what lets us slog through the oft dreaded terrible first draft. Next, we must believe that we should spend our time and energies crafting novels. After all, we build our living on the idea that our thoughts are so awesome that others should pay for the privilege of sharing in them. While that seems like the height of hubris, our readers apparently agree with us. After all, why else would they buy our books?

I would argue that this belief is even more important than the oft-cited need for passion. Passion is pouring gasoline on the creative bonfire. It’s impressive, bright, and in many ways violently self-destructive. In my experience, unrestrained and undirected passion leads to self-neglect and burn out. Belief is the coals that are left behind. They may be buried and seemingly dead, but uncover them and care for them, and the fire will burn on.

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