During my drive to work this morning, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasters, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.com. On this particular episode, he told a simple story designed to make a point about blogging but I think the lesson applies just as well to professional authors.
Diggin’ for gold
The Cavanaugh brothers scraped out a living mining gold in mid-1800s Australia. They’d heard tales of a promising location along a creek bend and quickly staked their claim. Dozens of other fortune seekers did the same. Before long, work slowed to a crawl as the miners hit a layer of hard clay just a few feet below the soft, sandy soil.
Digging through the tough clay with simple mining tools was back-breaking work. Progress was measured in inches per hour rather than feet. By the end of the first day, many had packed up and moved on. The Cavanaugh brothers stayed. Despite the long hours of hacking against the unforgiving clay throughout the next day, they had nothing to show for the efforts. By nightfall, the brothers found themselves completely alone.
Not long after they resumed digging the next morning, their perseverance finally paid off. They broke through the last of the clay to the former creek bed where they discovered gold in the soil below. They dug through the entire day and into the night until their lanterns finally gave out. In the end, they amassed a fortune to last them and their families the rest of their lives.
Pickin’ em up and puttin’ em down
The Cavanaugh brothers fought through hours of labor, sore muscles and blistered hands. Even after all their fellow miners had left to search for easier claims, they endured. There weren’t any shortcuts or mysterious secrets to their success. It came down to nothing more than determination and belief.
Authors are faced with difficult challenges as well. Whether you’re a full-time author with a successful career or just starting out, we all face that blank page and blinking cursor asking the same question “Do you have anything to say?” There are days when the words seem to come gushing like an open fire hydrant. Then there are times when they slow to a frustrating trickle. That’s when the real work begins. That’s when you force words to come out, even when you know they aren’t very good. Even when that little voice in the back of your brain tries to convince you to just give up and go do something more fun. No matter what, you push through the block. You tell that little voice to STFU because you are NOT quitting.
Ya gotta wanna
So why do it? Why keep banging away on that keyboard? Why go through all the anxiety and frustration? After all, it’s a long shot, right? The chances of achieving even a small amount of success are fairly small. Becoming a full-time author? How unlikely is that?
Does all this sound pretty depressing and harsh? Good, it’s supposed to. Whether you like it or not, it’s reality. Make no mistake about it, you will be asking yourself these questions (or ones like them) at some point in the process. To have any hope of success, you better have a good answer.
Here’s the good news. I have the answer for you. Want to know what it is? Sure you do but I don’t have to tell you, do I? You already know the answer. The reason you write is because you love it. You love the process of telling a good story. You love the idea of creating entire worlds out of nothing. It’s magic and you’re the magician. It doesn’t matter that it’s really hard and can drive you crazy. Writing is who you are. You’re not in it for the money (although money would be nice, for sure). You write because you have to. There are ideas and stories and thoughts and “stuff” inside your brain and they want to come out. YOU need to bring them out. It’s what you do.
Do you have a story you want to share about how you fight through writer’s block or a particular challenge you’ve faced/overcome? Drop us a line. Tell us your story. After all, it’s what you do.