Earlier today I sketched out some basics to get fiction onto the page. Just storytelling, but there are a lot of things to think about. Creating character. Plotting. Sensory experiences. Making entertainment out of trouble, pumping up the drama so we care how things are going to work out, if they ever do, in a story.
“Wow, this is a lot. It sounds hard.” But notes went down onto the page about everything. My writer had it, that desire to tell a story.
On the bottom of my computer monitor there’s a little pink Post-It Note. A quote from creative coaching.
Once we acknowledge the truth, and stop fearing hard work, we grow enormously.
I would add, our storytelling ability and experience grows enormously, too. We aim ourselves at great. We fall short, but we aim again. In a part of my house next to the home studio where the classes and groups meet, there’s a beloved old poster. Under a sketch of a circus clown, it says “Why dream of being good, when you can dare to be great?”
And so I come to one of the moments that can keep me in the chair whenever it gets hard. It gets hard for all of us, no matter how long we do this storytelling thing, practiced through writing. Tom Hanks said it in A League of Their Own to Dottie, Gina Davis’s star catcher who’s leaving the all-girls team to go back to marriage. “It just got too hard,” she said.
“Of course it got hard,” said Hanks, her team manager. “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Over in the world of National Novel Writing Month contestants — people who work at making 50,000 words of a story in 30 days — there’s very similar advice. That line from the movie seems to reverberate everywhere. This what it looks like from a writing coach’s chair, advice to someone who’s already down the path toward something big:
It’s getting hard now, isn’t it? You started off strong. The weekend was a breeze. You laughed at Monday like it was wearing white after Labor Day. You thought this thing was a piece of cake.
But now… now you’re starting to get tired. It’s not so much an adventure anymore. It’s starting to feel like a job, and who needs that? You’ve already got a job. Maybe you’ve got more than one. If you have kids, you definitely have more than one. And here’s this other obligation sitting there in the corner giving you the stink-eye. Who needs it?
Maybe you’re young and you have dreams of building a writing career so you never have to work a soul sucking cube farm job. Well guess what? Any dream worth having is going to require hard work to build. Here’s the hard. Build through it.
That’s right. It’s hard. It’s supposed to be hard. The hard is what makes it great.