Monday Motivation: The pulsing heart of your next story
I want to think about passion today. That irrational, unmanageable force within you that urges you to do something possibly mad and whose consequences you can’t and don’t and won’t weigh.
Think of someone with depression so overwhelming that their passion for annihilation drives them to leap uncaring to their deaths.
Think of someone caught in the coils of love or of lust – who can always tell the difference? – who will sacrifice everything to be with the object and the subject of their passion.
And think of a writer in whose breast booms the need to tell a story.
Here’s Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (more latterly turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon) on the book she felt within her:
“As my 30th birthday approached, I realized that if I truly wanted to write the story I had to tell, I would have to gather everything within me to make it happen. I would have to sit and think of only one thing longer and harder than I thought possible.”
That’s pretty much an accurate description of what it takes. Just think of one thing longer and harder than you ever have before…
I suppose it depends very much on your psychological disposition whether you find that paragraph inspiring or depressing.
What I like about it is the fact that it doesn’t refer at all to the product of that single, intense focus. The book that you pluck from your breast might be of little account. It might be mediocre. It might not find a publisher.
But what writing it will do is change you utterly. The focus and the intensity, the single-mindedness, the sheer effort of translating a series of minor inspirations into words that work on the page will have transformed you. You’ll be, not a dabbler, not a hobbiest, not a dilettante – you’ll be a writer.
Now, if you’re talented and smart to begin with, that book will be worth reading, and might well find a publisher and an audience. But if you’re not quite as smart as your mother always told you you were, and not as talented as your kids think you are, then, having wrenched your first book from the snarls of your imagination, you might have to pass judgement on your work: not good enough – and make a difficult decision: learn how to make it better.
The rest is easy: having learnt the tricks and techniques that geniuses seem to have been born with, you’ll try again. You’ll marry passion with discipline. Your job will still be to plunge a hand into your chest and pull out the pulsing heart that is your next story. But this time you’ll do it with more finesse, more understanding and more control.