Want A Dream? Do Your Homework

I was recently at a conference. It was a relatively new conference and it looked like the organizers were still trying to figure it out: self-published writers are together with trade publishers, young adult merges into adult fiction, into Christian romance, into children’s book, all thrown together without thought.  Still, it’s nice and informal. There’s a happy feel to it, the blending and merging of genres, the simple understanding that we are all in this together, lovers of books, whether we come from traditional publishers or whether we went rogue.

But then this man comes to my table, gives me a business card with the title of his self-published book, spreads his arms open and leans down on his fists and says, “Let me tell you a story I haven’t told anyone yet.”  I have not invited this man to my table, and it irks me that he blocks my view, that his patronizing sends away two people  asking me questions about my writing.  It is clear this man does not intend to ask me about my book, but rather that he thinks somehow that I’m “game” for his story on how he had a conversation with God, and God told him that this period of his life (82 years) was going to be the most productive of his life.  This man tells me how, upon recovering from surgery, God told him he was going to be a writer.

I’m not sure which of these offended me more: 1. that he was using God as his business card, God a sleazy salesman who goes knocking door to door, an offensive obscenity that is so blasphemous I really have a hard time keeping myself from telling this man to go away; 2. that he assumed I would be amenable, probably because as a woman I would certainly be more receptive to believing his megalomanic delusion that God told him he would be a great writer, or 3. that he assumed that he could be a writer without doing his homework, simply by deciding it one day (with God’s blessing).

Now, I have my own beliefs about God and ego, and I know these are not the same beliefs as most people. I believe that you don’t take a short cut to God. If you think God is talking to you 99.9% you have a dissociative personality disorder.  The Buddhists warn: if you think you’re talking to God, spit in his face. They call it Makio: the intense delusions that form right before one is about to attain enlightenment, the ego using up its last tricks to keep you bound to the delusions of your unique importance by giving you visions and letting you hear voices. Don’t pay attention to these things. They are blocks to trick you away  from awakening.

These days, the word “Christian” seems to justify everything from selling vacuum cleaners to making policy that hurst the poor and the old.  For some reason, a man can imagine that saying “I woke up and talked to God today” is fine to say, whereas, “I woke up today and Satan told me this,” is different. Well, it’s not different to me.  If your message was that you were going to sell books, it’s likely it wasn’t God you spoke to: it was your ego, buddy.

And here is what your ego didn’t tell you:

Creativity requires more than a dream. In many cases, people struggle to turn their dreams into a reality not because they lack ambition, motivation or imagination, but because they lack the necessary skills and knowledge. Too few opportunities and bad luck are two other obstacles. Creativity-in-action is more like the art of survival than daydreaming – you have to choose your tools wisely and “pivot” if necessary to find another, better solution. –

(Posted from: http://www.creativitypost.com/create/writing_and_the_creative_life_creativity_in_action#sthash.R0WCSfXo.dpuf)


I had to repost that quote from a creativity blog because I work too hard every year in trying to persuade my students that, 1. yes, writing is really hard work, and 2. don’t give up just because it didn’t happen on your first try.  

It’s frustrating, as a writer, as a teacher of writing, to see how at large, people give up on dreams before they’ve put them into practice, or else decide to take a shortcut, which will invariably mean putting an end to a dream before you’ve even taken the first step to make it happen.

We don’t become famous writers from our first books.  If you’ve heard of it happening, then you have closed your ears and eyes to the 1,000,000 failed attempts that happen for every 1 lucky break. And if you scratch deeper into the one lucky break self-published, write-on-napkins, rags-to-riches-in-a-day story, you will usually find out that 1. that person had done his homework and was simply persevering, and 2. that luck, an amazing and unusual amount of it, was also at work.

We live in a culture of short cuts.  You can just have a dream, and poof!, there it is.  You want to speak to God, and so poof! the first thought that comes into your head is not your ego speaking to you: it’s God. For as long as God tells you the shortcut is your way, definitely, it’s God.

In both instances, the issue here is one of laziness.  It’s wanting to get the benefits of something without putting in the work to earn them.

This is not about self-publishing or not. I know writers who write beautifully who have decided to self-publish because they are tired of the hurdles imposed on them by agents and literary publishers.

Regardless of innate talent, regardless if you choose to self publish or to go the traditional route, you will not get anywhere if you don’t do your homework first.

Nobody becomes a famous dancer by dancing once at a party.  No one becomes a great athlete by watching games on tv.

Novels are written one sentence at a time, with lots of revisions, lots of learning and re-thinking.  Creativity is not a lightning in the dark night. It’s a choice you have to take every day, every hour, every minute of your time.

Published by laura

I'm the author of two short story collections, a story cycle, and a collection of short memoirs. I am an educator, literary translator, journal editor, and writing coach.

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