“Show up every day.” – anonymous
I am an insecure writer, a condition I attribute to being whacked in the back of the head too many times by women in black and blue robes as a child. Actually, I blame all my frailties on the same thing, well that and my grade school nickname—Dumb-Dumb. It took publishing more than fifty articles and my first book to finally call myself a writer. Up until a year ago I would tell people I was a shipyard welder, even though the shipyard I worked at in my early days closed in 1995.
I have Garth Algar syndrome, “I am not worthy.” I get freaked out whenever I send a manuscript, short story and article to an editor. But I’ve learned from reading about the literary greats that I am not alone. In fact, it is a common trait that wildly successful authors don’t think much of their own work.
James Michener didn’t consider himself a great writer and claimed there were many writers in the world much better than himself. According to the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the difference between himself and a multitude of talented writers who wither in obscurity was that he got off his duff and wrote over forty books, while other writers with as much, if not more talent, talked and dreamed about writing but did nothing.
Frank McCourt, the great Irish author from the lanes of Limerick, and Pulitzer Prize winner himself, instructs his students in Teacher Man, “Dreaming, wishing, planning: it’s all writing, but the difference between you and the man on the street is that you are looking at it, friends, getting it set in your head, realizing the significance of the insignificant, and getting it on paper.” McCourt urged his students, “Get it on the page, Man.”
Graham Greene, author of The Orient Express and The Comedians once said, “I have no talent; it’s just a question of working, of being willing to put in the time.”
Lili St. Crow, author of many novels says, “You do not sit down and write every day to force the Muse to show up. You get into the habit of writing every day so that when she shows up, you have the maximum chance of catching her, bashing her on the head, and squeezing every last drop out of that bitch.”
Many years ago I attended a seminar and remember the instructor claimed to have the formula for success—the keys to the kingdom. The students sat in a circle, and near the conclusion of his dissertation he made a dramatic pause. Everyone leaned forward and he said, “Just Do It!” That was it, “Just Do It!” And that was years before the Nike swoosh became an international marketing symbol. Those three simple words were the most profound advice I’ve heard in all my years of study. Interpreted, they mean, get up off your ass, take that first step, take control of your life. Pat Croce, the vociferous former president of the Philadelphia 76ers, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, went one step further in his book, I Feel Great and You Will Too, in which he exclaims, “Just Do It, Now!”
And “Just Do It” applies to anything you set out to accomplish in life—whether to earn a degree, run a marathon, play an instrument, master a craft, or write a novel. You will never achieve anything until you take the first step, and the first step is always the hardest because it takes you out of your comfort zone. There are no magic formulas—No Ten Steps, Seven Principles or Five Stages—that begin without that first step. The first step begins the journey from obscurity to achievement.
Don’t leave your dreams in your head. Act on them. Get them out there—on the track, in the classroom, in the workplace, on the page, wherever you aspire to do your life’s work. Do it for yourself, for your loved ones. Do it for posterity.