I got an email from a mother of an aspiring writer who was 15. “What’s the best advice you can offer my daughter?” the woman asked me.
Without hesitating, I wrote, “Tell her she’s got to have passion or she should figure out something else to do.”
But now that I’ve had some time to think about it, here’s the longer response:
“So, kid, you want to be a writer? Great. Congratulations. You have a goal. Now, how much do you want that goal to become a reality?
First off, writers are born writers. You don’t necessarily become a writer. If you’re really a writer, it’s in your DNA, bloodstream and coursing through every hair follicle. It’s not a job; it’s who you are. You can’t run from it. You can’t ignore it. You can’t pretend it away. It’s the pink elephant in the room, kiddo.
But writers are also honed. They start with the gift and then they mold that gift through years of writing, experience, rejections, experience, loss, experience, positive feedback, experience, observation, experience, evolution and…did I mention experience? If when you’re 60 and you think you wrote your best work at age 20, something ain’t right.
And throughout the whole thing, PASSION must prevail.
Passion for what you do is going to get you through the tough times. And if you’re going to be a writer, kid, you’re going to get intimate with tough times. I’m not trying to discourage you from becoming a writer…far from it…I’m just letting you know that on your way up the slippery slope of authorship, you’ll need to persevere when everything looks bleak and the wolf is at the door.
You might doubt yourself, your talent or your decision to not be a doctor/lawyer/engineer/teacher/accountant/salesman or whatever “sensible” job your family thrust in your general direction. After the 51st rejection letter, there’s only one thing that will keep from drowning.
And if the gods are smiling, the planets are aligned in your favor, you’ve worked your tail off and luck taps you on the shoulder, that passion will hopefully lead you to a great story that is crying to be told only by YOU. Passion will get you to that point and then passion will get that story told.
Here’s the deal, kid: that story has to excite you. It has to inspire you. It has to move you. It has to feed your soul. It has to have characters that you can’t wait to visit each and every day for as long as it takes to tell that story.
You’ll need passion to get you up in the morning and drag your bone-weary body to your keyboard to type the next chapter. You’ll need passion to keep re-reading what you wrote yesterday and editing it word by word until it’s tight and right. You’ll need passion to keep believing that what you’re doing is what you’re supposed to be doing, even when your friends, family or landlord think you’re two items short of a combination platter.
But the passion doesn’t stop when you’re done with the story. Not by a long shot.
You’ve got to transfer that passion toward the selling of what you’ve written because, kiddo, if you don’t believe in yourself and what you’ve created, no agent or publisher will fall for it. Agents and publishers have to be excited (i.e., passionate) about what they’re selling and if the writer is only halfway on board, they got Trouble with a capital “T.”
But as long as you’ve got Passion with a capital “P,” you will be able to withstand even more rejections from agents and publishers until one day someone gives you a shot and agrees to put your words in print.
So, kid, go forth and write and find your own path. I guarantee it’ll be original because no two paths are ever the same. But carry your passion on that path and it’ll fuel your journey no matter where it leads.
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