07 October 2009

This Writing Life

On Monday, I quoted the brilliant Mark Twain. In searching for a quote for that post, my eyes sought out something inspiring, something that would prove a kick in the derriere, something to get my creative writing juices flowing again (onto the page and not down my chin...). Instead, I got something infinitely wiser.

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions."

Hmmm, how many times have I uttered, in a fit of fluttering excitement, about my new project, my query letter edits, or the fact my finished trilogy has more pages than most people's personal libraries only to have someone look at me and say, "Hn. That's nice."? OK, perhaps not in so many words, but you know what I'm talking about. There are those who root for us, cheer us on, tell us "good job" and "wow! that's great!". Those are our cheerleaders, our "hurrah" corner. We need these people. They make us feel invincible, as if we could do no wrong on page or otherwise. There are those who lovingly (if not firmly) critique our work, forcing us to take a good, hard look at what we've done. Making us take out the dreaded red pen, pair of scissors, freshly sharpened sword and chop out the dead wood, the extraneous adjectives and superfluous descriptions. We hate them, for the time being, but we know they mean well. We wipe up the tears, the snot, and get to hacking. They are our editors, our mentors, our guides and writing parents. We love them, loathe them, would die without them.

Then there are The Others (no, not spirits who haunt our houses and creep under stairs). Those people who can't be happy for anyone, who are more than glad to "Debbie Downer" every speck of sunshine you try to let in. They stuff sandpaper in the holes in the curtains. Dark, dank, gloomy, miserable. And sad. So sad. Perhaps they're jealous of the fact you have a calling and they have yet to find theirs. Or, perhaps they know their calling and are angry that you had to guts to step out of the boat and give it a little rock. According to dear Mr. Twain, they are small. They want you to be small because it makes them comfortable. Step out, succeed, even if it's just to finish a novel but never get it published, and they are uncomfortable. They don't like success because they know they have potential but fail to use it. Why could this be? Because it IS uncomfortable, hard, frightening, and, sometimes, excruciating to follow your dreams.

Everyone dreams, everyone has visions of greatness, be it stay at home mom-hood or rock star status. To dream is easy; everyone does it. Even dogs dream. It takes guts, and a certain amount of insanity, to actually go after those dreams. They don't make sense, they seem impossible, they aren't practical. So what? Great people don't settle for the bottom of the barrel just because it's safe and comfortable. Great people start climbing and the truly great don't stop until they reach the top, look over the side and grin because they see another, larger mountain to scale. At each trek, they find others who settled, who will only be satisfied if you pitch your tent permanently with them. But they'll also find more cheerleaders, more stalwart mentors.

You may lose some friends, you may make some "enemies", but climb you must! There will always be those who are climbing beside you. Seek them out, follow them and lift them higher. Allow them to reach down and pull you up when you need it. Because "the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great". And when you do become great, it will be your turn to help someone else make that climb (just don't be too brutal with the red pen :)



Anonymous said...

great twain quote & great post

Jeannie Campbell, LMFT said...

hmm. i like the quote, too. but keeping away from family members is a fine line. it's not that she belittles my ambitions, but she doesn't think they should have the priority i give them. maybe it's the same thing. interesting thoughts, though.

The Character Therapist

Jen Chandler said...

Thanks one and all!

Jeannie: I understand. Several of my toughest critics are family. I can't remove myself from them, per se, but I can limit my time in pessimistic conversations with them (easier said than done!)