Lately, writing has had me squirming like a worm on the end of a hook. It has me, and it knows it. I’ve been rather angry at it for treating me this way, so I started groping around in the dark for affirmation. I don’t know what prompted it, but I found myself googling Nora Roberts. I blushingly admit that I’ve never even read one of her books…however, out of left field, I picked up the ipad and punched her name in. I had to know something about this woman right away. All I knew before checking into her, was that she’s a prolific American writer. She’s produced literally hundreds of works of fiction. I just had to know something about her, something inspiring.
I had been searching that day, particularly, for something in me that would make me keep my chin up. I was having one of those days every writer has where I second-guess my own abilities, and want to take a baseball bat to my mailbox for not spontaneously producing a positive letter from a lit agent for me. I literally paced the drive way, pulling at my own hair just hard enough to make it hurt a little while I hated myself for loving such a selfish beast…damn the literature.
The following day I didn’t get out of my pajamas and considered deleting my blog only before flushing my latest manuscript down the toilet. I started filling my head with lies about how I’m just ordinary, and there’s no reason for anyone to pick me up. I hadn’t even been to a writer’s conference before. I never finished college. Who in the hell was I to get published. I’m a typical southern-born idealist who wants to make it big. I’m every aspiring someone, aren’t I?
I started googling people, all the big names. I googled Nicholas Sparks, Barbra Kingsolver, Sue Monk Kidd, and investigated all their journeys. They were nothing like mine. I thought maybe, more and more, I was just not cut out of the correct writer’s cloth. Maybe I was just meant to look in at the other writers wining and dining through a frosty window. I shoved the computer away.
Hours later, when I had about decided to take up work carrying the shovel behind the elephants at the circus, I did my random search of Nora Roberts. One of the first things I read about her struck a chord with me. When she writes, she doesn’t sit down and plan. She sees a random picture or person, an instance, that triggers her story. Flint in the air meets her writer’s fire and she’s off. She writes through all that’s in her head, filling in the rest later. She runs head first into her writing, with the story already out there waiting. That’s how I do it too, and this made me smile. She too, never finished college. She couldn’t stop writing long enough to get it done. I knew this was my fate when I almost failed an Environmental Science class at UNC Asheville because I couldn’t quit writing stories during the lectures. Writing is who I am, and I collide with it, like hot air meets cold, creating thunder all the time. Writing is the noise in my head, and I have no choice but to succumb to the storm.
I’ve convinced myself, finally, that I have the raw talent. It’s a talent because I do it without trying, and it’s something I just can’t help. However, talent and passion alone don’t publish works. It’s about more than wanting it now; it’s about getting it. It’s the hardest part. Effort and hard work put books on shelves. Sending queries, writing letters, editing manuscripts, and learning to get the hell beaten out of you publishes novels. I’ve learned a whole lot lately, and most importantly, I’ve learned there’s really no time to spend an entire day in my pajamas. There’s too much to be written, and too many doors to beat down. Entrepeneur, Mark Cuban said, “follow your effort.” It’s true. Passion will keep me writing, but effort, gritty effort, every day, with no pajamas, will get me on a shelf.
Coincidentally, I met one of the most tenacious people to have ever lived today; the great, Michael Jordan. It was completely by chance. He is here in Asheville with the Charlotte Bobcats, using UNC Asheville’s practice facilities. My husband was at the hotel he’s staying at, looking at meeting rooms to use for business purposes. My husband, being a huge basketball fan, and a business man, has always really admired Jordan’s work ethic. Coming from humble beginnings, my husband worked himself to the bone to form his own finance agency, which he has now successfully achieved at 27 years old. While building his business, he ran a paper route at night, and worked odd railroad jobs with his father on weekends. The man didn’t sleep. He’s always cited Michael Jordan every time he thought of giving up. He read Michael Jordan’s book, among many others, and tried to channel that level of hard work. He told me stories of how Jordan played that championship game with the Flu and a 104 degree fever, and collapsed as he left the court, nothing less than a champion. When I shook that famous player’s hand today, I thought of that story. I noticed his hand was rougher than normal, and his work ethic jumped onto me. It takes a hand that willingly accepts callouses to succeed.
I’m a writer close to victory, with the shot clock ticking. I have to keep shooting, no matter how tired or weary I feel. What will it all have been worth if I lose steam now? What if my husband hadn’t fought? What if he had just decided it was too far-fetched for a kid from a meager start to tell people what to do with hundreds of thousands of dollars on a daily basis, while he ran a paper route in secret? What if when Jordan didn’t make that varsity team in high school, he’d assumed he wouldn’t be the best player to ever grace the NBA? What if we all judged ourselves by what we probably won’t be? We’ll never end up being what we might have been. I want to be what I just might make it to being, that thing I have a slim shot at. That’s why every rejection letter is worth it. I’m fighting to be the person I know I could be. That’s all the inspiration I now need. I’m inspired enough for effort. Instead of feeling discouraged that it’s gotten so hard, today I feel good. If it didn’t feel so difficult I would know my effort isn’t there to compliment my passion; and effort and passion make one hell of a dream team.