"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
--Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I'd like to take a moment to clarify something I said earlier. In an earlier post I mentioned that I felt like I didn't deserve the title of "Writer" because I hadn't been writing daily. It just dawned on me how that might be construed by others. I'll never forget the moment I first read an author's blog and she said something to the effect of "If you don't write daily, you don't get to call yourself a writer." I remember being filled with anxiety, fury, and self-righteousness. I liked this author's books (and still do) but what right did she have to tell me what I was or wasn't?
After taking some time to roll her words around in my brain, I realized that she was right. Before I have a riot on my hands, let me explain. She was right to an extent. If I wanted to be an author, a truly published author, I was going to have to get real. I would have to suck up my indignation and face the fact that love writing as I may, I wasn't getting anywhere by not taking it seriously. Someone once told me, "The difference between a writer and an author is publication." Writers write. Authors get published. (Yes, authors write too but go with me on this.) I didn't reach this conclusion (authors vs writers) right away. It took several weeks of stewing, feeling furious about that author's post, and multiple pity parties until I owned up to her words. I wasn't taking it seriously and I didn't deserve to call myself anything other than a hobbyist. I hadn't written for months and in some occasions, years.
So I took some time to ask myself some tough questions, questions like Is this something I really want to do? Do I care if anyone says I am a writer or not? Am I willing to work harder than I am to get published? Do I even want to be published? Then I thought it through and the answer to all of those questions was YES. When I doubt myself or my choice I think of a song by Tim McGraw, How bad do you want it? The chorus says:
"How bad do you want it?
How bad do you need it?
Are you eating, sleeping, dreaming
With that one thing on your mind?
How bad do you want it?
How bad do you need it?
Cause if you want it all
You've got to lay it all out on the line."
(If you haven't heard this song, I recommend it whole-heartedly.) For me, that sums it up. I want it and I want it badly enough that I'm fighting for it. Sometimes it's a war against my heart, a war where I fight against doubt & fear & inadequacy. Other times, it's a struggle against lethargy. Writing is amazing, creative, cathartic. Unfortunately, it's also a lot of work. Sometimes (as a poet once told me) it's like squeezing an orange without peeling it first; you're lucky if you get any juice out of it. You feel like you've wrung yourself inside out and you have maybe 2 paragraphs that aren't pure drivel and that's on an okay day.
But I don't truly believe that you don't deserve the title of "writer" if you're not writing daily. This is why I've filled your mind with all this nonsense of "Author vs Writer: the ultimate showdown between the spiral notepad geeks and the puffed-up peacocks of publishing!"
Writing is in your heart. It's something that takes your whole self to do. Both sides of the brain (lefty and righty) are needed to finish a manuscript. Your body will sustain you while you earn carpel tunnel syndrome (or some serious calluses on your fingers) and remind you that sleep and food are necessary. And your heart, your heart is what tells the story.
Today's quote was chosen specifically for this post. It's a quote about hope, about kindness, about teaching and learning. It's the whole "lead a horse to water" thing but goes farther to show you how you get that little filly to take a sip. I've found that most people are like badgers; back them into a corner and you might as well fork out that hefty ER co-pay. But where force and embarrassment ruffle my fur, belief and genuine kindness make me purr.
Some people aren't ready for the leap from writer to authorship. There are those who don't even want it. To those of you who fit into either of those categories, allow me to say: "You ARE a writer. I believe in you. I support you. I wish you the best success." To those of you who feel like I do, who will never be content until your name is on the spine of a well-marketed, frequently-bought book; to those who can accept nothing less than your name on the New York Times bestseller list; to those of you who intend to rival the greats--I say this:
How bad do you want it?