“Very few of you will ever be successful writers.”
I was at one of my first writers’ conferences and the keynote speaker, a well-known agent, had just dropped a bomb over the audience. He continued by telling the percentage of people who don’t follow through on requests to submit material to editors or agents. He went on to give a dismal picture of the publishing world and the slim chance of manuscripts ever being published.
I was dumbfounded, aghast, and disturbed. Why did he have to be such a Scrooge and put a damper on my enthusiasm? I had come to the conference to be infused with information about writing, to be educated in the process, and to glean from those successful writers who had walked the road before me.
Besides information, I wanted encouragement, inspiration, and motivation to forge ahead. A voice inside my head screamed, “Stop! I don’t want to hear this! Tell me Why I should write, not why not!” The speaker’s doomsday report only angered me, forcing me to consider the possibility that I could fail.
Perhaps his objective was to give all of us dreamers a reality check. Yes, these things were true. Yes, the statistics might be accurate. But I wanted to keep my dream, not dash it aside because others had failed.
Maybe he was using negative incentive. You know when someone tells you you can’t do something and you go ahead and try, if for no other reason than to prove them wrong? For some, that tactic might work. Or it might make a lot of people give up without even trying. Perhaps that was his objective – to weed out the masses and spare himself the agony of dealing with poor writers.
But what most writers realize is that we have enough negative thoughts about ourselves and our ability already. And if we don’t at first, as soon as those rejection letters start rolling in, the pessimism mounts. We don’t need others telling us why we won’t succeed.
So I took his information, stored it in a box, and put it away on a shelf in a dark closet, only to be opened when I needed a strong dose of reality. But I kept my dream and pushed on, doing what I could to avoid any pitfalls that might be my own fault.
Even our friends and fellow Christians can be naysayers, i.e., Scrooges. I recently wrote and directed a play for the first time. As a novice, I was overwhelmed by all the details that had to be handled besides the script – actors, music, lighting, costumes, and set design. The venue was my church, which has a creative team to handle the technical functions. Since I’m used to working alone, it was a challenge to hand over responsibility for various tasks to others. My inexperience provided enough stress. Then a few people told me everything that could go wrong. I could only say, “I trust God to handle the details.” And in my mind, I was holding my hand up like a stop sign, rebuking the negative talk.
Writers need to stay motivated. Why tell someone they won’t succeed? Who besides God knows that anyway? Somehow the desire to write was birthed in us – maybe by a teacher, maybe by reading, or maybe even by God Himself. True, we are not equally talented. Just like anything else we do in life, there are some more naturally gifted than others. But for the rest of us, the majority, there is the opportunity to learn, and good writing can be learned.
We can fill our minds with negative thoughts about our own inability or we can fill them with positive thoughts. Positivity motivates. Negativity weakens. I prefer to dwell on famous sayings such as one by Winston Churchill who said, “Never, never, never give up.”
After all, there is only one guaranteed way to fail, and that is to quit trying. So tell the Scrooges in your life to be quiet.
Instead, focus on words like these:
“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:” Psalm 37:4-5 (NIV)
And don’t stop pursuing your dream.
*This entry marks the 200th post on my blog. To celebrate, I’m having a drawing for a copy of James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. Leave a comment to be entered in the drawing. Make sure you leave your email address so I can contact you if you win.