Everyone probably has a number of these sorts of quotations from different authors, but given that it’s Harry Potter’s 20th anniversary this week, I think a quote from J. K. Rowling is appropriate:
Even if it isn’t the piece of work that finds an audience, it will teach you things you could have learned no other way… The discipline involved in finishing a piece of creative work is something on which you can truly pride yourself. You’ll have turned yourself from somebody who’s ‘thinking of’, who ‘might’, who’s ‘trying’, to someone who DID. And once you’ve done it you’ll know you can do it again. That is an extraordinarily empowering piece of knowledge. So do not ever quit out of fear of rejection.
In 2015, I forced myself to focus on a single project to completion, rather than bouncing around a half dozen different ones as I had for years. The result was a finished work I felt comfortable shopping around to agents and publishers, and confident enough to ultimately self-publish: Beneath the Wood. I’ve been writing my whole life, but this was the first time I’d forced myself to keep the pressure on a single project for over a year until I was completely satisfied.
When I put it up on the store, it felt good- damn good. I told a friend that I wanted to feel this feeling again. It wasn’t “making it” and charting on a bestseller list, or even being picked up by an agent or a mass publisher- not a blip on any meaningful radar. It still felt good to reach a finish line, to know I put the work in and went the distance.
So, I did it again with Five Talents. Now, I’m fired up to start again with Drawful the Awful. It doesn’t matter that Five Talents didn’t “make it” and it won’t matter if Drawful doesn’t either. What matters is that I’m doing what I love, I’m giving it my best effort and that I’m satisfied with my progress and product. Even if novels three all the way up through thirteen don’t make it, I’m about my grind. I love it and I don’t know what I’d be doing if not staying steady at it.
When I finished the draft of Beneath the Wood in early 2016 and began shopping it around, I wrote myself an email and locked it on my calendar to be opened at the start of 2017. When writing the message, I didn’t know that I wouldn’t be picked up, nor did I know I’d be self-publishing by the time the “open” date on the letter arrived.
None of that crossed my mind. Instead, here’s what I told myself and I want to tell you all who are reading this because dedication to producing art speaks to you:
If it matters, you make time for it. If you believe in it, give it something- anything- each and every day. Will you write the great American novel? Maybe not. Maybe you’ll never hit that superlative level you want, but you’ll be able to know that you put the work and time in, took the shot. At the end of it all, you won’t be able to blame yourself. You won’t have to make excuses for giving up.
Don’t let the world keep you from your dream. Don’t let the world tell you that you don’t fit some mold of what a writer is supposed to be, or supposed to look like, or supposed to live like. If you believe in your craft and in the good you can do through it, then treat it the same way you do eating, showering, or brushing your teeth.
Make it an essential part of your daily responsibilities. Feel uncomfortable if you don’t put the time in when you have it. Plenty of people will tell you to relax, maybe some will call you obsessed, but just know that’s what the lazy call it when they see discipline they’re afraid to demand of themselves. When they see success, they’ll say they could do it too, if they only had the time. When they see someone finding the time, they say that person is crazy because it makes them question their own dedications and passions.
Don’t let them do to you what they do to themselves. Believe in your work. Believe in your passion. Believe in the good that can come from it.
You believe now. Keep believing. If, by some chance, you’ve stopped believing, then believe again.