It's the first Wednesday of the month, which means it's time for another installment of Insecure Writer's Support Group. If you don't know what I'm talking about, go visit the Ninja Captain, Alex, sign up on the linky-do-hicky, and release your fears and insecurities into the world. Today, I'm talking about a quality that will serve you well in life and writing: Gumption, otherwise known as sticktoitivness.
It should come as no surprise that my life has been more about grit than grace. Most people’s lives are. This may come as a surprise because all the ways we tell stories end on a neatly tied up high note. No loose strings. Freddy gets acquitted of murder just as the love interest proposes. In my life, every high note has come with a kick to the guts, a sucker punch or something so terrible that it almost cannot be spoken of. Once I’m down, life makes sure to send a few more kicks my way.
I wish stories did a better job of explaining that. I've spent a lot of my life wondering why I'm so different from the heroes and heroines of my favorite novels. Why did everything always work out for them? Why do they always get what they want in the end? How come they never dream of being a ballerina only to have a six inch growth spurt just before getting point shoes?
In a way, I’m also glad stories aren't like the real world. I read to escape the real life, not learn that my grandfather has terminal cancer on the same day that my grandmother has an ulcer the size of a softball, and they’re just not sure she’ll survive the surgery. I read stories because I don’t want them to be like that time my phone rang to tell my they’d had to put down my first horse, or the time I got a phone message that told me my brother had had a stroke and they just weren’t certain he’d live, so hurry home. It's hard for stories to capture that in a way that wraps up nicely, because life doesn't wrap up. I heard a great quote by Robert Frost (thank you John Green) a couple weeks ago, and I think it says it all “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it. Goes. On.” Greatest quote ever because it’s so true.
In fact, it’s so true, that there are really only a two responses to the unrelenting breakers of our lives: surf or drown. Drowning is the easy option, and let me tell you, those waves are going to try to pull you under at every opportunity. They’ll sing their sweet song of surrender when you’re down. When you’re up, they’ll buck you out into the water. You’ll be going along, happy as a clam, and then the tip of your board catches, and shablohhy! In the drink you go. Even when you’re surfing right, you spend more time in the water than riding the waves. That is life, and it’s hard. And the most important advice anyone will ever give you is: “Get back up.” No one is going to do it for you, so stand up on your own. Realize that you will fall. Know that sometimes the breakers are easy. Know that sometimes the breakers will smash you into the rocks. Stand back up anyway.
That goes double for writing. So, take a few more moments to hop around the ninja captain’s exceptional blog hop, but then get back to it, the next breaker is coming. Every great writer has been where you are now, be that getting rejections, writing your first book, or checking the List to see if your most recent book hit it. Just remember, they got kicked when they were down, and they kept on going.