“Talent isn’t enough. You need motivation—and persistence, too. What Steinbeck called a blend of faith and arrogance. When you’re young, plain old poverty can be enough, along with an insatiable hunger for recognition. You have to have that feeling of “I’ll show them.” If you don’t have it, don’t become a writer. It’s part of the animal, it’s primitive, but if you don’t want to rise above the crowd, forget it.” Leon Uris (1924-2003)
I’ve been hitting my favorite thrift stores again. This time I picked up a copy of The Writer’s Digest Guide to Good Writing.
This is a compilation of articles from Writer’s Digest magazine dating back to the 1920s. The book includes some wonderful articles, but I was most interested in a section in the middle of the book called “How I Write.” In this section, several prominent authors, past and present, offer up a paragraph or two of writing advice. The quote above is from the late Leon Uris, author of Exodus, Trinity, Topaz, and many other novels from the late 20th century.
His quote grabbed my attention because it touches on an ingredient of writing success I don’t often hear about. And that ingredient is: YOU REALLY HAVE TO WANT IT!
Okay, excuse my shouting in all caps, but you get the point. We always hear about craft, voice, characterization, plot development, and all the rest, but rarely are we reminded that successful writers are most often writers desperately hungry for success. Hungry enough to overcome the evil influences of procrastination, self-doubt, fear of failure, impatience, writer’s block, and all the other land mines we writers face daily.
Do you really want to succeed as a writer? Have you ever once in the face of repeated rejection said to yourself, “I’ll show them! I’ll write a book that’ll make them rue the day they rejected me!” I hope you have. I hope you’ve said those words mentally or aloud with images of all your doubting friends and relatives in mind. Yes, even your sixth grade teacher who laughed aloud when you said you wanted to be a writer. Or maybe your spouse who begrudges your love affair with the keyboard. Or maybe even one of the members of your writing group who always finds something picky to complain about in your manuscript.
This “I’ll show them” attitude is useful as one of several motivators, but it can become dangerous if not properly channeled. Anger can’t be your only motivation, but when added to a regular writing routine, persistence, revision, patience, and prayer, it can give you that extra push to success.
I give you permission to get angry at your detractors. And especially angry at the sender of that most rejection. Go ahead, you show ‘em! Get hungry to succeed!
“I’ve got a folder full of rejection slips that I keep. Know why? Because those same editors are now calling my agent hoping I’ll write a book or novella for them. Things change. A rejection slip today might mean a frantic call to your agent in six months.” – MaryJanice Davidson (1969- ).