Welcome back to the revolution, comrades.
Today, in our struggle to rise from the oppressed writing class, I offer you a very powerful tool; motivation. Indeed, from the very basic caloric requirements to shift the muscles in our fingers to the higher order of wanting to sit down at a keyboard and convey our stories from aimless thoughts in our minds to well-organized, compelling narratives, motivation is key. So, in keeping with the theme of redistributing intellectual wealth to the downtrodden masses, I borrow from a much more successful work. This time I switch it up with Liam Neeson.
Apart from being an awesome reboot for a powerful trilogy, one of Liam Neeson’s best roles, and a scene that could stand on its own apart from the rest of Batman Begins, there’s a vital lesson embedded in this montage. To demonstrate, I’ll draw from my own experience for a change.
Now, I am certainly not a perfect writer. A good one? Well, depends on how humble I’m feeling from day to day. I write stories that I would enjoy reading, and then tweak them so that a broad audience can appreciate it. Still, even though I try and do it for myself, I have to stop and wonder whether my writing is “good”. Will anybody else enjoy it? Have I developed a voice and style that works? Or am I just wasting my time?
“Your training is nothing. Will is everything!”
Just by dedicating words to paper, you’ve set yourself apart. Not everyone can write a novel or a story. I knew a guy in high school that almost failed English class because he couldn’t write a short story for the midterm. He just sat there and stared, and I couldn’t help but feel pity for him. There’s an even smaller number of people that enjoy isolating themselves for hours a day to craft worlds full of fictional characters that have no bearing on their lives. A lot don’t see the point.
But you’re different. I’m different. We both have the will to act, as Ra’s al Ghul says, and that is what truly matters. You can never become a novelist if you don’t write one. You can’t develop a “good” writing style unless you write a story, and then another, and another. Eventually you’ll have a sense of what works, and what doesn’t. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. I have a whole Writing folder full of them on my desktop, stories that should never leave this hard drive. Without failure, you never learn what your mistakes are.
This is all seems like conventional wisdom to most of us, but it will be vital to remember someday. Someday, you’ll wind up sickened by the thought of your “awful” writing. Someday, you’ll wonder why you even bothered opening up that first Word document, and how many hours of your life you’ve wasted. Maybe things really are as bleak as your inner critic would have you believe, but that’s not the point.
In this darkest hour, you’ll learn whether or not you’re truly a writer. Nobody’s going to come along and suddenly convince you that what you have is gold, because we both know you won’t believe them. Not fully. It’s not that you’ll get an acceptance letter in the mail for your first novel. If you despise your work, then you won’t feel any better. No, you’ll know you’re a writer, because, sooner or later, you’ll keep going.
For me, it took two months. I had half a novel written, and in the upsets of my first semester in college, I began to see that writing as worthless. Rotten. Nothing but an awful idea that I had somehow managed to drag out for eighty pages. I stopped thinking of it entirely for a while. But I came back. I took an honest look, and saw that it wasn’t perfect, no, but it wasn’t half bad for a first draft. There was a lot of potential between the characters and the world I’d built so far. I just had to find a plot that would keep these two factors interesting.
And I did. Here I am, working on the third revision of that completed novel, and writing its sequel at the same time. Probably not the wisest strategy, but writing becomes something different for us. To most, it’s a nuisance, a pain of English classrooms and History papers. To us, it’s a drug, full of its own highs and unfortunate side effects. Like any drug, it turns us a bit quirky, but it makes things interesting. It’s an addiction, one that can border on unhealthy, but that’s how we like it.
There’s no greater thrill than staying up long into the night as you craft an awesome climax for us. Nothing like seeing characters clash, even though we already know how it’s going to end (most of the time). The tragic thing is we’ll always be more entertained by our writing than any reader ever will. We’re kind of narcissists that way.
Remember, you may find yourself sober, may think it’s better that way. But all writers relapse, we can’t help ourselves. Writing becomes something different for us; it’s an escape, a release, a piece of our identity built through words. Writing is a vital piece of who we are, who I am. If you can’t imagine going through life without ever channeling your imagination through a keyboard, then you are a writer. The “quality” of work is not what makes a writer. The will to act, the will to write, that is what defines us.
A final note. You may have noticed the quotation marks dotting this piece, and wondered what I was going for there. Descriptors like “bad”, “good”, “awful”, and “quality”, are, like any opinion, subjective. In simple words, this means that receptions will vary from person to person. Just because someone hates it doesn’t mean many more wouldn’t love it. The important thing is that your writing appeals to you. Otherwise you won’t want to continue. Write for yourself first, and worry about the audience in the editing phase.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t suggest another soundtrack to motivate the revolution along. This time, I turn to something a bit less Soviet-esque.
Until next time, comrades. To victory!
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