To me, the most inspirational part of Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 was this, “You’ve got to find what you love…the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”
I love to write. And, it’s funny, because for as much as I claim I love to write, I haven’t been doing a lot of it lately. Actually, I’ve been doing pretty much none. I’ve had ideas floating around. I’ve worked on some plot development and some character sketches, even some research, but I just don’t feel ready to actually start the writing process.
I think it would be amazing to weave an intricate and suspenseful story that affects readers deep in the core of their being, inspiring them to be better people. I want to create characters to which readers can relate, but also to act as mentors offering advice for life’s difficult moments. My dream isn’t so much to sell books, or even to be published, just to have a story that will inspire people.
So, I’m tossing around ideas. More accurately, an idea or two are gasping for air in the muck which is the day-to-day activity of my grey matter. These ideas will remain just that, maybe not indefinitely, but for a very long time, I’m sure.
Why? Because I’m insanely intimidated. And, I fear I have no imagination. Or, maybe, just maybe, I’m trying to sprint to the finish line when I’m not even steady on my feet.
Another quote I find very inspiring comes from the renowned rapper Eminem. In the song “Airplanes Part II” by B.o.B featuring Haley Williams and Eminem, he rhymes, “Because he never risked shit, he hoped and he wished it, but it didn’t fall in his lap so he ain’t even here; he pretends…”
I’m realizing that I’m doing a lot of hoping and wishing, but I’m not really working. Just like it wasn’t easy for Steve Jobs or Marshall Mathers (Eminem), it won’t be easy for me. I’m not going to sit down in front of a blank screen and effortlessly churn out 500 pages or so of literary excellence.
Dreams can come true, but only for those who are willing to work for it. So here’s yet another of my favorite quotes. An American entrepreneur just after the Great Depression, Arnold H. Glasow, once said, “Success isn’t a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.” I like to interpret his meaning as work. One must endure grueling work to enjoy abundant success.
I’ve tried to set myself on fire a few times. I’ve told myself I’m going to hone my writing and creativity with daily practice. More often than not, I find that the only thing I managed to set on fire was my ignorance. Once that sputters out, so does my determination.
Ignorance on fire. This is a turn of phrase that has stuck with me for nearly 15 years. I first heard this during my, very brief, career as a telephone sales representative—the kind that advertised paid training, after which was about where my career ended. Anyway, as the room of new sales representatives neared the end of a week’s worth of training, the instructor explained that many of us will do very well as soon as we hit the sales floor. He said we’ll make ridiculous sales mostly because we won’t really know what we’re doing. We’ll be like ignorance on fire!
I seem to approach every aspect of my life with ignorance on fire. Once I realize how much work is really involved my determination fizzles out fast. This happens with pretty much everything; writing, relationships, jobs, hobbies, etc. The few things I have completed required some form of outside motivation, typically manifested as financial or contractual obligations. Sometimes, even that doesn’t stop me. I believe I already mentioned how fickle I can be, no need to revisit that topic.
To be honest, although I know I enjoy writing, I really have no idea what kind of writing I prefer or what I want to write about. A large portion of the writing I have done has been dedicated to journaling–probably why blogging seems to be a natural next step, although I was skeptical for a long time. I’ve dabbled in poetry and the occasional short-short-story, but, other than that, not a lot of creative writing. As much as I would love to write the next literary classic, I’m not sure creative writing is my strong suit.
I’ve found that I enjoy business writing, even with occasionally dull subjects, because of the challenge of limited space. I enjoy writing with abandon then having to go back and cut out every non-essential paragraph, sentence and word trying to whittle from 700 words down to 300. Something about editing your own work to such a degree is strangely exhilarating! Of course, this is something I should do regardless because, in really good writing, if it doesn’t add essential meaning, it shouldn’t even exist.