American economist James M. Buchanan won a Nobel Memorial Prize in 1986 for his work on pubic choice theory. Two questions he reportedly asked job candidates were:
“What are you writing that will be read 10 years from now? What about 100 years from now?”
Has anyone ever asked you that? How did you respond?
The truth is, most writers don’t think in those terms. We zero in on the brass rang of “getting published.” Nothing wrong with that. It’s a worthy goal. But is “getting published” the whole nine yards, your whole or sole reason for writing? The reason that story tugs at you heart and soul, yammering to get out? What if you pour heart and soul into a stellar story and one barely literate peasant of an editor after another turns it down?
A Story to Tell
You have a story to tell. The world needs to hear it. We need your words. Your perspective. Your voice. Your thoughts. Why? Because you’re one of a kind. No one else sees the world, relationships, issues, topics or Hershey’s quite like you. (Some of you may even own a cat. Nobody’s perfect.)
If we all saw, thought, processed and wrote alike, what would we learn about one another? How would we contribute? Create, critique or appreciate? Stretch, grow, imagine? Bloom, challenge or achieve? Without a variety of voices from which to choose, the world would be deadly-dull. Write?
You Know Why
So, why do some writers have so many unfinished writing projects scattered about, collecting one or more layers of dust? You know why. Because if they work on their writing project, they might finish it. And if they finish it they may have to do something with it. And that involves risk. It’s not easy seeing the work you’ve labored over so long and lovingly returned with a “thanks but no thanks” form letter or ignored altogether.
It Takes Guts
Writing takes not only perseverance and discipline, it takes guts. Risk is part of the territory. It can be scary. But have you noticed? Rewards almost never come without risk. Because here’s another writing truth: I write for me, not for you.
Yes, writers love to be read. We want our work to matter. But I feel better about myself when I write. Even if the only one who turns handsprings over my latest magnum opus is related to me.
Like an athlete training for the Olympics, I’m in better shape when I do what I was born to do: write. Serious writing is a calling, not a hobby. It takes commitment. Practice. A lifetime of it. You know what I mean, don’t you? If you’re a born writer, you write because you can’t not write.
The greatest risk for a serious writer isn’t the possibility of another rejection letter, but in ignoring or shelving what you were born to do – because you’ll never be truly fulfilled unless and until you write.
So, what risks are you taking with your writing this week? What are you writing that will be read 10 years from now? What about 100 years from now?