It’s all well and good for authors to talk about deciding to pursue writing for the sake of art.
But today it’s time to talk about a secret reason many do it, and a possible motivating factor for you to do it, as well.
Consider this: Many writers, no matter how early they begin, are told either point-blank or through inference that pursuing a career in writing is for losers/social outcasts/people resigned to being broke.
Somehow, the fact that you have stories in your head that you simply must get out is treated like a passing fancy, pointless daydreaming or – worst of all – mental illness.
You’ll often see this kind of treatment early, usually by playful dismissal from parents who haven’t a damn clue what they’re doing. Remember, folks, the idea is to lift your kids up and let them reach their full potential, not to be a soul crushing demotivator because your kid decides she doesn’t want to be a radiologist.
“Ha, ha. You make up such cute stories, Ricky. Too bad that’s just going to get your ass kicked at the country club and ensure no one will ever let you into Harvard.”
Later in life, such comments will come from people like teachers and guidance counselors who are really bad at their jobs – again, demotivating rather than motivating – who say, “Yes, that’s all well and good. But no one can ever make a living being a writer.”
Assuming you make it out of high school with your aspirations intact, you are indeed going to have to make a living. And for lots of people, that living relates to writing not one bit. Everyone has to eat and pay rent, right? But mention your writing aspirations to co-workers and you might get sneers and snickers as they go about their meaningless existences slaving for the evil corporate overlord, with only complete viewings of every season of “The Bacholorette” to show for their pathetic, meaningless lives.
For some this might be the final straw, killing the spirit of potential writers, binding them up like bowels after a big French cheese course and forcing them to never pick up a pen or sit down at a keyboard again, unless it’s to prepare the dreaded TPS reports for the passive-aggressive boss they secret wish they could see sodomized with a garden trowel, partially eaten by maggots, then dumped into pit of molten lava.
But out of all the things listed here, there is NOT ONE that should ever stop you from writing if you feel driven to do so.
In fact, all the above situations should result in you being a better writer – or at least a more motivated writer – because you’ve got plenty of reason to want to prove every single one of those people wrong. You’ve got to want to put your words to paper and have their very presence there shout a resounding “F-You!” to all those people who told you, “You can’t.”
A confession: My wife loves the singing competition The Voice. And because I love her and like being around her, I often watched it with her this past season. There, 18-year-old contestant Trevin Hunte confessed that his prime motivation for auditioning for the show was to prove wrong the teacher who told him he’d never succeed. And when he sang, he sounded like this:
That, my friends, is a prime example of the F-You Factor at work. He could have ended up working in a McDonald’s or an insurance office or any of the other places we all end up having to work, so consumed by his rage – by a debilitating case of the woulda-coulda-shouldas – that it ate him away at the insides, affected every relationship in his life and drove him to an early grave.
Instead, he got out there on national TV to show the world – and that unsupportive teacher – that he would at least give it a try. And to tell that single doubter that she couldn’t keep him down.
The missing piece to someone getting writing accomplished isn’t actually believing they can do it – most aspiring authors have no problem with that – it’s not giving in to all the people around them who say they can’t do it that causes trouble.
So what if no one has ever told you that writing was a sucker’s game? What if you got along great with your parents, they’ve always been supportive and your teachers nurtured and fostered your artistic ambitions?
Well, chances are there’s still someone who’s done you wrong. Class bully make your junior high years a living hell? F-You! Have him eaten by a car, Christine-style, in your latest horror story. Girlfriend or ex-wife ditch you for someone with a cooler car or bigger paycheck (or other attributes)? F-You! She gets to be the first victim of the serial killer in your detective thriller. Those co-workers who sneer? F-You! They’re the troop of zombies your hero defeats by luring them into an industrial furnace.
It’s a stereotype that the best writers come from the most painful backgrounds. I would never say this was true, because everyone that goes through a harsh life doesn’t become a great artist. What an artist does is takes that pain – and joy and ambivalence – that we all feel and translates and distills it for consumption by the masses.
As an author, you’re turning against what most people do, which is keep feelings deep inside hoping they’ll go away, or turning to expensive therapy where someone is paid to listen to them air their grievances. Instead, you get to take that anger, that hurt, that pain of unrequited love and use it to fuel your creative engine, drive you towards greater things and give your work the depth that comes from real, honest emotion.
So if you’ve been told you’re not good enough, or just need a little extra oomph to get that honest writing flowing, be like Cee Lo, and embrace the power of the F-You Factor.