There are reasons to give up. I gave up attempting to run a better than 4 minute mile when I hit forty something and gained twenty pounds. There was also a time many years ago when I thought I’d be a great concert pianist. I took a few lessons and although I wasn’t great I could pound out a few chords to my favorite songs. Despite my strong desire (at the time) to be a great pianist I really didn’t want it enough to put in the hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours required. Should I give up on being a great concert pianist? Yes. Will it bother me? No.
Writing is nothing like running, where your body and arguably genetics plays an absolute role in your successes. Your running abilities will likely drop through the years shortly after hitting your peak in your early twenties (or thirties if you’re talking about long marathon distance running), but writing just gets better with practice.
Writing does have a lot in common to playing the piano in that you get improve with practice over time, however they’re also a lot different in that playing the piano requires certain neurological programming to allow for that seemingly independent motor capabilities required for each hand. That is why teaching a child to play an instrument at an early age makes a tremendous difference. Likewise, writing does depend to a certain extent on reading and learning to string words along in creative and pleasing ways. The way you approach this learning depends on what works best for you. For some, reading countless novels and short stories tends to work. For others, the careful study of the craft is important.
Why am I telling you this? And what’s the point of this article?
I’m telling you this because I want YOU to know that you should never give up your resolve to becoming a great writer. Why? because a good friend of mine recently announced he was giving up. “I’ve been at this for twenty f**ing years, and I still don’t have a novel to my name. I’ve been living a lie.“
As I researched the net to find something that could help convince my friend that he shouldn’t quit I was inundated by way too many wannabe writers saying they were hanging up their pencils. There also wasn’t much on inspiration for writers. Actually, I found a lot of discouraging material like one article that listed: you either had it or you didn’t as a major requirement for success. This last article had me thinking and after analyzing the whole writing process to death I came down to the single most important factor for the success of any one writer. I believe (and let’s make this clear this is my own analysis – based on three decades of writing and analysis) that a writer’s success is dependent directly to the positive feedback he or she gets which in turn fuels the aspiring writer to proliferate.
Without the positive feedback you’re stuck on continuous dissipating loop until you eventually reach the level my friend did. The natural question is: HOW? How do you get positive feedback. That my friend is the difficult part. In fact for the most part I would rather you believe that you can’t get this feedback. Sure friends and family may attempt to inspire you but let’s not kid ourselves….we actually anticipate they will. If for some reason you’re lucky enough to get someone who is honest and doesn’t like your writing – you’re toast! It will have the absolute opposite effect! But aren’t we kidding ourselves? No, I don’t believe so. The invention of writing and especially fiction writing has only come to the human experience relatively late in the game. Your style may not resonate to those close to you. Or, it may be very likely that you’re still maturing in your process. So my advice to you is: be the provider of your own positive affirmations. At least at the beginning (or if you’re way past the beginning, from now on). Let your writing flourish while you believe you can. Henry Ford is quoted as saying “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”
Let’s clear something else up. I’m not saying that you can be a writer, I’m actually saying you can reach the heights of being a “great writer” in your life time. I’m also taking a guess you are reading this because you want to go above and beyond being just a writer. Well, I am telling you that YOU can be the writer you want to be.
Not convinced? How can you break down the negative affirmations that are holding you back? The best way to do this is to: 1) set your believe “You are a great writer” and 2) provide as many references to support that clause. In Anthony Robbins book “Awaken the Giant” he makes the distinction between a belief and a conviction. He used the metaphor of a table with legs. A believe (table top) is supported by its references (legs). If you add enough legs you end up supporting your belief until it no longer meets the definition of a belief but one of a conviction. A simple believe is easily toppled over…but one with many supporting arguments (a conviction) is difficult to knock down.
How to go about making writing your conviction? Start by creating two columns. In one list the reasons you believe make you for a lousy writer. In the other column list the counter arguments. Do this and revisit the list as often as you can whenever you feel down. Make sure you are providing enough reference legs to support your conviction.
Here is an example:
I’m too old to be a great writer
IN ACTUAL FACT
In actual fact being old is a benefit not a hindrance to your goal. Throughout the years you have gain incredible experiences that will work their way into your writing. You’ve read books, watched movies – again giving you the unique perspective on what people want.
Even when you’re not writing, if you’re thinking about writing, thinking about stories, thinking about the processes – these activities help you become a better writer.
Writers that wrote their first novels after the age of 50 include: Richard Adams, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Frank McCourt, Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Mary Wesley… to name a few.
I’m too young
You’re NEVER too young. Some great writers that started writing in their teens: Charlotte Brontë, Christopher Paolini, Mary Shelley, Stephen Crane…just to name a few.
….keep doing this until you feel confident. And remember to keep the list handy. If ever you’re confronted with a new disempowering belief simply add it to the list and work on the counter argument.
Remember: YOU ARE A GREAT WRITER!