The Villain's Rescue
When Steve Berry talked about the piles of rejection letters he and his agent endured before selling his first novel, the now-bestselling suspense writer said that each “No” only made him more determined. “I don’t like people telling me I can’t,” he explained in his charming Southern-lawyer bluntness. Or maybe he does. There is something uniquely motivating about hearing someone else tell you what you can’t do. In that moment we who have been labeled incapable feel the immediate polar opposite response that is our inherent capability. Moreover, when some villain tells us we can’t, we are given the chance to hear our own voices saying we can. Perhaps we had not heard our voice speak those two words so clearly until then.
Writing is such a solitary business, after all, that it is easy enough to hear your voice utter those other two words. Nothing is more demoralizing. Why, you might whisper those words so softly you might not even realize what you have told yourself, feeling only the deathly emptiness that surely follows. How often have I sat down at my desk and laid that hex upon myself simply because I faced a new chapter, a new scene, a new sentence, and viewed the initial darkness as a sign of my blindness rather than a room I wished to illuminate with my bright curiosity?
Let us take a moment then to be thankful for our villains. Our heroes would not know how brave they were without them. Villains, after all, thrive on the weakness of others. They swoop in when heads are bowed and the games looks lost, swoop in to sit awkwardly on an abandoned throne, swoop in with great black wings beating, awakening us from our stupor, and saving us from ourselves.
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