Writing — or any form of creation for that matter — is not a magical enterprise. Writing is work. Like every other thing worth doing.
You don’t hear the doctor say she’s not inspired to prescribe medication.
Why? Why not?
She has studied. She knows what works. She applies her knowledge as the context comes up. She shows up to work every day with no knowledge of which patient she may come across that day.
Many creators — including me — have romanticized the process. We often expect the heavens to come to our aid instead of doing the work, learning the rules, studying the greats, and being honest with ourselves.
I kept reading about work and process and all these non-creative things.
I never understood them until I found out that I had understood them a while back. To my dismay knowledge acquisition is not very linear.
Or is it?
If you focus on getting better 1% every day, like James Altucher suggests, you’d be surprised at how much you can grow in two months.
Imagine a year. Imagine a decade.
Does the medical doctor’s medicine speak for her?
Does the carpenter’s wood build for him?
I’m aware of how much my writing has improved each year. I look at my previous creations and know that I’m better at this than some people.
If you put that in contrast with all the things I’m not good at, I’ve had to pay a hefty chunk of my life to get slightly better each year.
I would not recommend this life to anyone. No light; only tunnels.
It’s also easy to forget that for my slight improvements, I’ve been playing with words since 1998, in a country where calling yourself a writer puts you on the same level as one who doesn’t love football.
I was a writer in Cameroon who never loved soccer.
Let’s just say I wasn’t a popular kid. Or popular anything.
I was 8 years old when I stood in front of the whole class and parents to recite my first poem.
I was 14 years old when I started writing a sci-fi novel with genetically engineered wolf-men and a magical family. 14 years ago.
20 years of reading and writing and trying and failing and learning.
When someone says things such as words speak for me or that I’m talented or gifted or blessed or any other description which edits out the price I had to lay to get here, it genuinely pisses me off.
It makes writing easy. It cultivates the false assumption that one is born a writer.
I think writers are built.
“Writers aren’t born, they’re made — from practice, reading, and a lot of caffeine. And sometimes tutelage.”
― Alexander Chee
*take out ‘a lot’ and I’d fully agree.
In every industry, there are individuals who come out of the womb ready to make a dent in the universe.
Even Mozart worked hard. Da Vinci. Van Gogh. Tesla. Stephen King — exceptions who re-establish the rule.
Most of us aren’t so lucky. I know I’m not.
It’s not a good practice to keep spreading this falsehood of creative work: that passion or luck are the major ingredients for any form of career or life success.
There are other writers and creators, far better than me, people I read and watch every day. People whose books constantly remind me how much work I need to do get better at my life’s work. People who have actually published a book. Something I am yet to do.
A weapon I often use against myself when I get too cocky.
If you want to be a doctor, do what doctors do. If you want to be a writer, do what writers do. If you want to be an engineer…you get the idea.
The whole religion of ‘find your passion’ or ‘discover yourself’ is a flawed move for life.
You were sent to this earth with a mission. That mission can mean multiple things.
You are a human be-ing. You be-come what you choose to focus your life on.
That mission will hardly come to you in a dream. Ryan Holiday had such a dream. In his book Perennial Seller, he extolls how much work he had to put to write the book he was about to begin, even after his subconscious had sent him a message as clear as a dream with him on a launching pad.
You can feel the work. You can get intimidated. I’m always intimidated.
You can also do the work.
Doing the work. Trying things. Showing up, day in day out is the way you find out that mission. You explore your interests, find how you feel about them and learn all you can while you can. You practice in public.
You only push your limits by reaching them.
Muscles grow through stress. Through use. Through practice.
If you want to be a writer, do what writers do.
Write, every day.
Every time I feel the surge of excuses welling in me, I have to remind myself:
If I really say I am who I say I am, then I need to be and do who I say I am.
Anything else is a lie. And there is no faster way to waste a life than to live lie.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
― Maya Angelou
We need you to live your truth. We need you to get better at the things that you are good that, the things you feel you were sent to do. Your personal legend. We need you to thrive.
If you feel that you were sent here to write, to tell stories, to create, please, I beg of you, do the work.
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