I spent the weekend at my son’s place in Galveston, where among other things, we viewed and discussed his continuing battle to put the final touches on The Price of a Free Lunch, the 11-minute film we did based on one of my short stories this year. Like all of our projects, it was heavily laden with volunteer labor. It is turning out to be a beautiful film, which is surprising considering that so far it has been done on a $400 budget.
That got us discussing how many graduates from our school and others have views of themselves of being the next Spielberg or Kubrick or, in my case, Stephen King or C.S. Lewis. What they don’t tell you in college–or more likely they tell you but you don’t hear–is that in order to be accomplished in your art form you actually have to do something. Initiative is everything. I know I graduated, thinking, someday I am going to be a great writer. Four years later I still hadn’t written anything, and I don’t know, maybe I was waiting for a piano to fall out of the sky with a full blown novel written to hit me on the head. But that never happened.
Worse (or actually, much, much better) I had to learn my craft. I had to make countless mistakes. I had to write lots and lots of crap. I still write crap. Hopefully you guys don’t see most of it. But after you’ve written about a million words, the idea is that the crap tends to diminish.
But that’s not the point. The point in all this is that writing is a decision. If you are going to be a writer, then you will write. Period. Nothing will stop you. It is not dependent on how many readers you have. It is not dependent on whether you can make a living at it. It is not there to get you boyfriends or girlfriends, or otherwise make you popular (still haven’t seen that one happen). It’s not there to make you rich (let me know when that one happens). It’s not there even to get you a job, although that happens more times than you imagine.
If you don’t have a story to write, find one. Look around you. Get curious. Imagine. Remember. If you still can’t think of a story, tell a story from your own life. If you still can’t find a story, interview a friend. If you don’t have a friend, go make a friend, then interview them. Voila! You’ve become a reporter.
The more you write, the better writer you become. But first you have to commit to being a writer. It is not what you do, it is what you are. It is ingrained in you. When you sleep, the dreams you have turn into stories. When you are awake, the thoughts you have turn into stories.
It’s not about trying. Trying doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s about doing.
There is no try. Do.