I get this a lot. “Oh, you’re so lucky, you can write. I can’t write.” When I hear this, I wonder if it means that the person isn’t interested in writing, and is politely communicating, I’m glad you’re doing it—cause it’s soooo boring. Or does it mean, I wanted to write but I felt like I wasn’t talented enough because some jerko said that my writing sucked and I took it to heart—that my potential as a writer would never be realized because I’m a failure with words?
I guess I should ask people what they mean. And, maybe, next time I will, but I haven’t so far. This is because I imagine what I think they mean. This is where my fiction writing mindset comes in. I like to make up stuff. Anyway, if the person means that they are not interested, then fine. It’s like me and car engines. At this current point in time, I’m not interested in becoming a mechanic. If someone starts to talk about carburetors, I completely tune out. Now, maybe, if I were working on a manuscript about a person who worked on cars, I’d tune back in. I’d have an authentic reason to want to learn, but right now carburetors are just pieces of machinery I’d rather not spend time learning about. End of story.
Same goes for writing. There are those who might appreciate good writing when they read it, but they are not interested in apprenticing how it all really works. You know, the mechanics, the structures—and all those storytelling tools. About as boring as a wrench is to me.
But what about the other folks? Do they want to write, but are just afraid they don’t have the right stuff? To those people, I say you have been handed a leaky burned out car battery. Anyone can learn to write. Sorry, I just don’t agree with the people who say it’s only natural born talent blah blah blah. I believe it’s all about desire and a willingness to apprentice the forms. Look, everyone’s first drafts sucks. Believe me, I know mine do, even though when I write them I think they’re brilliant and worry what will I do when I am nominated for too many awards. I’ve read early manuscripts of what became major award winners and they were bird turd. But…after a few drafts, maybe, there is something there, maybe the potential is coming to light, and, eventually, the draft isn’t bad, and, then maybe, it’s good. And beyond that, we can all shoot for greatness, but I think that’s a rather vague thing, isn’t it? I mean whose idea of greatness is it anyway? I think if the story is really working and the author had fun and it’s at a place where there is a readership, most likely, it will be someone’s idea of greatness. So all of you “I wish I could write people,” you can write. The thing is—do you want to? And that’s a question I ask myself every day. And the only correct answer (for me) is—to write.
Footnote: By writing, I mean the whole gamut here. This could be writing, re-writing, editing, planning, imagining, line editing and polishing, deleting, doing research. It’s all part of writing. So, if you want to write, get to it!
The Treat: This is the last stanza of the poem Can’t by Edgar Albert Guest.
My fabulous fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Chase, had us memorize it (well, an edited version of this). I always think of it when I think I can’t do something, which is usually means writing.
Can’t is the word that is foe to ambition,
An enemy ambushed to shatter your will;
Its prey is forever the man with a mission
And bows but to courage and patience and skill.
Hate it, with hatred that’s deep and undying,
For once it is welcomed ’twill break any man;
Whatever the goal you are seeking, keep trying
And answer this demon by saying: “I can.”
To read the whole poem, go to http://allpoetry.com/poem/8471321-Cant-by-Edgar_Albert_Guest