Last night at the Old City Creative Corridor meeting, I had the privilege of listening to Rakia Reynolds, a creative ambassador of Philadelphia. She spoke about branding ourselves as creative natives of this great town, and one thing in particular she said stuck out in my mind. I’m paraphrasing, here, but it boils down to this: “If you can find what you want to do, do what you want.”
I issue this challenge to my fellow writers. Walk into a bookstore. I mean, physically. Make the effort to get out in the world and walk amongst the shelves populated by the works of those who’ve already made their mark in our rarefied field. Take a look in your area of interest – speculative fiction, biography, self-help, instructional books on Twitter, whatever. Chances are you’re likely to find something that may, in passing, resemble what you want to do. The thing is, though, it’s not exactly what you want to do. So, go do exactly what you want to do. Then, shop the hell out of it. Sooner or later, all of the rejection and all of the negativity you feel you’re coming up against will wash away in the wake of one, just one, person giving you an enthusiastic response: “I like this idea. I am ON FIRE about it. Tell me more.”
I say ‘rarefied’ because not everybody feels they have what it takes to put words to paper in a coherent way that’s easy to read. It’s like everybody else who shares our interests knows something we don’t. And maybe, on a basic level, we know it too.
The difference is, to put it bluntly, we just don’t care.
If you start something, if you embark on a new creative endeavour, you’re going to run into static. There will be resistance. Practicality and logistics will rear their ugly heads to tell you the myriad ways in which what you want to do can’t be done. The work of others and a litany of failures will present evidence illustrating why your idea might not be a very good one. What separates the people we envy from the people we’ve never really heard of is that the people we envy didn’t let that static or their own failures stop them from reaching the heights to which they aspired.
Being great and making a difference aren’t really a matter of doing something entirely new or different. It’s a matter of being willing to fail, and making the most of success when it happens. And that willingness, that hunger to capitalize, comes from doing what you want, what you love.
As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”