Dealing with Doubt

When this year’s NFL Draft came around, several hundred new football players were chosen by the 32 teams of the NFL. The odds were against these new players, and many knew that despite their long hours and hard work they would be unemployed by the time preseason was over. One of those not chosen on Draft Day was a young receiver named Rod Streater. After the fanfare and flurry of Draft Day was over, he approached the Oakland Raiders and tried out for them, independently. They gave him a chance.

Now, as preseason is ending, Streater is showing up as one of the bright stars of their future, and even with a roster full of very talented receivers, Streater has a good chance of becoming a regular player in 2012. How? He was able to deliver. He was there when he was needed. And he offered something no one else was providing.

Imagine what he must have thought as Draft Day was winding down, and his name had not been called. He was faced with a choice. He could say to himself, “These are professionals. They know who’s good and who is not. They must know something about me that I don’t know. If I were smart, I would just take them seriously and find another career.”

Or he could say, “I know more about my abilities and my desire than they do. They have me wrong. This is my opportunity to show them.”

Writers are swimming upstream. Writers are climbing an impossible mountain. Every day on Twitter I see hundreds of other writers trying to do exactly what I am trying to do. They all want to be read. They all want to make money and be famous. And very many of these writers are incredibly talented. What is the difference between those who succeed and those who don’t?

Well, there’s no one thing that will make you a success, and many of the things that will are out of your control. Things like having the right idea at the right time. Finding the right publisher and/or agent. But there is one thing that you can control, and to me, is more important than any other attribute that a writer can have.

Tenacity. You have to keep at it. And that, my friends, is based on believing in yourself.

When the editors send you rejection slips, when your friends laugh at you for wasting your time, when your spouse complains because you spend all of your time writing instead of working at 7-Eleven to make REAL money, that’s when you have to believe in yourself.

Writing, to me, is one of the hardest professions one can choose. As I tell my students, writing isn’t hard. Writing well is, however. I have been doing it for more than 40 years, and have yet to master it. I doubt I ever will. But I have had a few successes, and I believe I have something to say. Even if I never publish another story, I will keep writing until the day I die.

That’s what you have to do. Keep writing.

As Winston Churchill said in his famous graduation speech: “Never give up. Never, never give up. Never, never, never give up.”

Just ask Rod Streater.