It doesn’t matter whether you have just opened your first notebook to begin your first story, or are in the middle of a ten-city tour promoting your sixth novel—the challenge remains the same. The challenge will appear to you in different forms, of course, because the challenge has thousands of disguises to meet the needs of thousands of writers, but do not be fooled. It is always the same challenge. The moment you choose to put one word onto a piece of clean paper, your relationship to your thoughts and your imagination changes. What had existed only within you now exists outside of you. You have harnessed the abstract, which was all energy and potential, and made it concrete. But as you witness the power of creation, the truth begins to dawn on you: you no longer have any say over what will happen to this thought. Now that you have written it down, it belongs to the world.
There is no way to tell precisely what the world will make of what you have written. Sometimes your books will hit the bestseller list, and sometimes they will not sell-through; sometimes your writing teacher will love your work, and sometimes she will pull it apart in front of the class; sometimes an agent will ask to see more, and sometimes an agent will not respond to a query. Do not think the despair of the published author reading a disappointing royalty statement is discernibly less than an unpublished writer reading a rejection letter. Despair of this kind is all the same: a belief that a single event is somehow the measure of your worth.
Your challenge is to turn the searchlight of your focus where it belongs, to pull it off the rejection letters and royalty statements. Within you is that idea, too large to ever be contained in one story or book, that drove you to write that first word on the first sheet of paper. It is what you want most to share with the world.
That desire is all that you truly have—not your talent, or your training, or sales record—only your desire. It is the only thing no one is allowed to grade, or count, or compare. You know the value of this desire the same way you know you love your children, or your husband, or your mother, or ice cream. It is absolutely unassailable, and it is all you have. No one else’s opinion belongs between you and it. Despair only appears when you measure that desire against the day’s news. The day’s news is nothing; it is the wrapping for tomorrow’s fish and chips. Your desire, however, is everything – it was what drew you into this world and what will lead you out of it.