Friday, 11 July 2008

Would you believe the seer?

There's an interesting discussion over at Nathan Bransford's blog where he asked readers: If a seer with 100% accuracy told you you didn't have the talent to be published, would you keep writing?

Most people avoided the question with answers like "Nothing is ever 100%" — which is stupid, because he already said it's 100%. Other people said the seer could never say no to them, because they're so awesome and talented (my paraphrase); "fated" to write. I don't believe in fate.

Most people said they wouldn't give up writing: that's it's "their life", that they "need" to write or would "explode" if they didn't. Wow. Not that I'd stop writing either — but I write because it's fun; because I love playing with words, seeing what I can build with them. Words have such power.

But if I had to stop writing, I would not explode. My life would not be over. I would need to find another creative outlet, and a new outlet for stress or emotion; and I'd write more for CHAFF. But that's it. Maybe that means I'm not much of a writer. But I don't think anyone should live so hard for one facet of their life — should need it — especially if that facet depends on being published. I'd rather live for Dan, family, friends.

I would have asked: Would you believe the seer? I'm amazed at how many people are sure that, inside them, a best-selling author is just waiting to be discovered. One commenter said they've had the same manuscript rejected 85 times, and are sending it off to agent #86, because "in my heart I know that I'm meant to write and be published". If I'd had 85 rejections, I wouldn't stop writing; but I'd retire that manuscript.

I admit may not have enough talent to "make" it, but maybe I need more confidence. I wonder: is it better to have unshakeable confidence in your own ability, or the humility to learn? The one can stop you learning; the other could make you give up. Can you have both? I don't know.

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