Why exactly is it that some of us are crazy enough to devote our lives to typing out other people’s stories deep into the far hours of the night? When does the lightening bolt strike that says, ‘Yes! This is what I want to do with my life.’
We could go off and become doctors, teachers, marketeers. We could choose passions where we can at least get a job. Let’s face it, when was the last time you saw ‘Novelist Wanted’ on LinkedIn? We can copywrite, become journalists, spin out corporate manifestos, but it’s never quite the same.
If we won the lottery tomorrow, we’d quit our jobs in a heartbeat and spend the rest of our lives writing stories, even if we never got paid for them.
So what is it?
What lights the spark and fans the flame?
For me it was becoming a reader. I must have been around ten years old when my father introduced me to The Famous Five. I’d always enjoyed getting little story books out from the library and I learned to read very quickly, but they were my first real stories. I knew then that I wanted to do that. To write something that would keep someone turning the pages past their bedtime, to beg for just five more minutes.
I wanted to write something that would take root in someone’s soul, become a part of them. Become that dog-eared copy that was always by their bedside.
But sometimes that desire isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to make a choice. Do we write the stories we want to tell or the stories that will sell? We can look at what’s hot at the moment and try to jump on the bandwagon. We can look at current trends and see if we can create something to meet the needs of the market.
If you’re a designer you’ve probably got a better chance at making a good living if you go to work at Zara than if you follow your passion for creating eighteenth century ballgowns.
If you’re a writer, right now you’d probably do better with the next Fifty Shades than the next Dickens.
But if you want to be the next Dickens, then you follow that star.
I don’t think it matters what stories we tell, I think it matters how we feel about the stories we tell. If we lose the passion, it shows in the stories.
Every writer has their own voice, their own stories to tell.
Find that first.
Everything else is just what comes after. Whichever direction you take.