People often give up on their dreams before they ever try, and those who try give up after their first failure. Those who succeed keep at it, work at it, and carry their torch in the face of failure, even if they can’t see victory as far as the horizon. They march forward anyway, no matter what hurdles get in their way.
A Wake Up Call
Bobby Fischer grew up with nobody to play chess against. He and his sister learned from the rules in a candy-store chess game, and when she lost interest, he was left to play by himself.
No athlete signs with a professional team after the first day of Junior Varsity try-outs.
The SpaceX Falcon I rocket failed three times before a successful launch to orbit. Almost all of the original objectives for the rocket had be compromised before it ever flew.
Nobody has ever picked up an instrument for the first time and played a song. Most fail to make a proper note because the tuning is off.
The first person to run 26 miles dropped dead after doing so.
I’d pay to see the first canvas ruined by any famous artist, or to witness an older kid teasing Micheal Jordan about being no good at basketball. Lizzy Hale started her journey in music with classical instrumentals on the piano.
And more relevant to this blog’s audience in particular: Bradbury barely graduated high-school and didn’t believe in college; Faulkner didn’t even finish, and later dropped out of college after a couple semesters. Crichton and Grisham are known specifically for not studying literature.
In fact, a LOT of authors didn’t pick up literature until later on in their lives, after they had a story to tell. It wasn’t a passion of literature that drove them to write good stories, it was a burning desire to tell stories that provoked any desire to study literature at all.
I’m not any good at it.
How many people have said these words after trying something for the first time. You gave it a few hacks, fell short, and then decided that it wasn’t for you? How many times have YOU done this?
This is the odd quirk of human nature that I consider whenever I hear someone talking about their first book being a complete failure, not gaining traction, getting bad reviews, etc.
It’s your first book, for Christ sake! That’s one. I know it may have took a year or more to hammer out all the details, go through the process, etc. Maybe it took several years. But that counts as one try.
You can draft a novel in about a month if you throw everything into drafting a novel. Editing, pitching, etc. takes time. A lot of time, and a concentrated effort. It’s a slap in the face at every turn. Just like that first editing session with a new draft, and wondering how your writing was so bad when you started.
Nobody is good at anything on their first try. This happens whether you’ve been studying English Lit for the last 6 years (I’ve seen some of these stories that shocked me at how bad they were) or you are barely literate but have an idea for a story. Somewhere, somehow, that first story is going to suck. At the very best, it won’t be your masterpiece.
I can already hear some moans and grumbles about this century’s most famous author: keep them to yourself. She hit plenty of her own roadblocks, and I don’t doubt that she’s been slapped in the face as much as any other author out there. We all earn our stripes.
What’s The Point?
Do something because you want to do it. Don’t worry if you suck at it. Everyone has room for improvement. Top athletes seek coaches to help them. Professional writers find editors to help make their work better. Even the best of the best need help. Moreover, they are the best at knowing they need help and throwing down extra cash when needed to ensure that they perform at a higher level than they are capable of alone.
Nobody’s perfect, no matter how much time and devotion they put in, and nobody gets it perfect on their first try. If it seems harder for you, that only means that you might need to put a more effort in than most. Most of us operate on the same hardware. Greatness is only a matter of tuning that hardware better than everyone else. It’s a skill, not a talent.
This goes for writers, musicians, artists, programmers, students, athletes, chess players, Rubik’s cubers, assembly line workers, or even ditch diggers. Greatness comes from effort, hard work, practice, and refusal to stop improving.