I’ve told my wife a hundred times, “If I could only spend one month in a little house on the beach, I could complete all these writing projects I’ve started.” She’s never offered to send me or help me find the ideal spot.
It’s like nobody can see the literary masterpieces trapped in my soul begging for release. Even more discouraging, the world doesn’t seem to care if they ever get set free.
I don’t want to rain on your creative parade, but your best work will not be produced when you are drifting free and easy and feeling no pain. Neither will the clamor of an adoring audience be loud enough or sustained long enough to motivate you to finish that book.
If it gets written, it will be because you made the time and commitment to give it life.
And all those time-consuming things that keep getting in your way when you try to write? Things like work and family and life? Those are there to give your story a soul, to bring focus and credibility to the message you feel compelled to deliver.
Life is the river that keeps rushing over your story like the current does a rock until all the roughness is gone, leaving in its place a smooth and polished stone.
You’ve heard the stories.
John Grisham was a practicing attorney whose passion to write had him rising at five in the morning so he could work on his book before heading to his office. He sold his first book out of the trunk of his car.
Stephen King was a school teacher. In his spare time, he thumped out stories on a typewriter he balanced on his knees. A chair in the laundry room was his writing office.
The passion to write kept them at the typewriter, but the obstacles in their way became the heart of their stories. King’s breakthrough stories featured teenagers with problems: BIG problems! But spending hours and hours surrounded by young people provided the realism his stories needed.
And John Grisham? His legal training and experience provide the central theme for a publishing empire that shows no signs of slowing.
Would either of these writers have been as successful had they never had to manage a classroom or learn to maneuver through our legal system?
I would argue that it was those very things that provided their success.
Don’t wish for the road to be less rough, the sky to be more blue. It’s the bumps and the clouds that put the soul in your story, that make it real, that give it value and validity. That make it work.
You are unique. You were formed by the experiences you survived. That’s your story. Writing from someone else’s is going to be be like David wearing Saul’s armor. You’ve got to tell the story the way it looks from inside your eyes.
But before you can write it so raw that your readers can feel it, you have to live it. The man who has never borne a load or felt blisters become callouses will talk right past a working man. You have to experience the pain and disappointment, the joy and excitement, so they can be woven into your soul and flow naturally into your expression.
So embrace the struggles of your life. Keep a journal of the highs and lows you experience. Those notes may well become the seeds of the most effective stories you will ever communicate.
In the comments, or by email, let me hear from you. What are some difficult experiences you endured that later proved valuable? How have you used your experiences (story!) to help others?