Wanting it is not enough

With preseason in session and the regular football season only weeks away, I find myself scanning the internet daily for news of the Oakland Raiders, my favorite NFL team. Today I read an interview between Pro Football Weekly and Nnamdi Asomugha, Raiders cornerback and reputedly the very best at his position in the NFL. Here’s a brief excerpt that especially caught my eye:

PFW: There was a story that ran during the weekend of the recent Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and inductee Rod Woodson was quoted talking about you. He said there weren’t many players that wanted to ‘get it’ on the Raiders team he played on at the end of his career, but you were one of the few. Do you feel like there are enough guys on the Raiders now that really want to ‘get it’?

Based on the team we have now, I haven’t been able to dissect each guy. From the standpoint of the guys I do know on the team, I think the majority of them want it and want to understand and want to get to that level. But there’s a big difference in life between wanting something and being willing to do what it takes to get there. That’s just a stretch of your own character. No one person can say, ‘Oh yeah, that person is willing to do it or that person puts it on the line.’ That’s something that you have to be honest and up-front with yourself about. From the outset, looking in at this team, I think we have a great number of players that want to be great and want to be the best. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

I added the emphasis on the second paragraph because it brings out an important point that especially relates to writing. Over the years, from the time I was a student at Pacific Union College wanting to someday be considered a writer, through the years to today, as I work with other would-be writers, I see many people who say they want to write. Fact is, I see many more who want to have written. It’s easy to write something. Really. It’s actually not that hard to be published. Believe me, I teach a class that requires students to be published, and in eight years of teaching the class, not one student has been denied publication.

But secretly I believe that every would-be writer wants something else. Those who pursue writing seriously must have a hunger to be read. That’s the addiction that drives us all. More than fame. More than money. They want to know that the thoughts and inspiration they sweat to put on paper do not fall unheeded. And if you’re reading this as either an established or a would-be writer, if you’re honest with yourself, you’ll agree with that.

Christian writers say that they are called by God to write–as I believe I am. But that calling comes with two responsibilities–the price that is necessary to be published often and be read by many. The first is to know your craft. Becoming a good writer involves learning how to build a sentence, a paragraph, a chapter, a book. It involves thousands of hours of practice. It requires reading as many books as you put in hours of practice. Books of all varieties. In fact, a serious writer is rarely found without a book in his or her hands.

Which brings me to the second responsibility. The writer–especially the Christian writer–must have something to say.  This again, comes from reading, whether we are talking about secular or Christian work. You need constant input to come up with new ideas. Because the real truth is that new ideas sprout–consciously or unconsciously–from old ideas. The writer also needs time for contemplation. If your mind is already occupied with other creative activities, it’ll be hard to think about your writing. I find that happens a lot while I am teaching. But if you want it–want it bad enough to do what is necessary–you will find a way.

Doing what’s necessary involves commitment and sacrifice. You have to give up things, such as TV time, vacation time, sleep in many cases, to get to where you want to go. But if you are truly addicted to being read, the price is worth paying. And that commitment needs to be strong enough to last you years of labor, often with little or no reward.

I’m not there yet. Someone called me a “famous writer” yesterday, and I had to laugh to myself. I am a long way from famous. But what I desire much more than being famous is simply being read. By as many as possible.

That’s why I pay the price.


One thought on “Wanting it is not enough

  1. Very well said.

    Sacrifice is the hardest part of the bargain. I have a heck of a time trying to will myself into a serious schedule. If I’m not being interrupted by well-meaning individuals, I’m distracting myself to the point of forgetfulness.

    On the other hand, that addiction, being read, is sweet and tantalizing.

    Time to sell the house to buy the pearl, eh?

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