I have taken recently to asking all my interviewees to finish this sentence: If writing has taught me anything, it has taught me . . . what? When I thought of this question I had imagined the answers would be as varied as those received from the question it replaced: “What advice would you give someone wanting to be a writer?” To that question I received everything from, “Write what you want to read,” to, “Don’t follow trends,” to, “Write every day.” One writer answered, “Get an agent.” Another novelist advised, “Don’t write novels; get into video games.”
However, from the dozen or so writers to whom this has been asked I have received two answers nearly to the exclusion of all others: Trust, and Persistence. Trust and Persistence. Interesting, because, as far as writers are concerned, aren’t they really the same thing? How can you persist without trust? How can you write in the face of rejection, of bad reviews, of the very unknown that is every single book before it is published – how can you live with this continuous uncertainty without trust?
I can see why an established writer might not bother advising a newer writer to merely, “Trust yourself.” How easy that vague encouragement is to disregard. When gathering advice, we are drawn to specifics. Write 2,000 words a day; start your story with action; have only one antagonist; put your hero in peril as quickly as possible.
All good advice, I suppose, but all of it useless unless the writer trusts himself. I was at a Seder once whose leader explained to the children gathered around the table that God did such and such to show His people He was real. This was the leader’s interpretation. All I could think upon hearing this was, “How convenient. This way no one has to have any actual faith.”
Everything can be disbelieved, from burning bushes to needing to write sympathetic protagonists. It’s as easy as thinking, “I don’t believe that.” It’s as easy as thinking, “I don’t believe I’ll find an agent for this book,” or, “I don’t believe anyone will want to read this story.” Nothing is easier to do, and nothing is harder to live with. Trust me.
If you like the ideas and perspectives expressed here, feel free to contact me about individual and group conferencing.
You can find Bill at: williamkenower.com