“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Ambrose Redmon
Fear is an impulse, or like the tattoo on my arm says, “Fear is the mind killer.” Frank Herbert wrote that. In Dune. So you can’t stop being afraid, but you can fight fear, you can control it.
I don’t think I ever told you how I became a writer. Or if I did, it was long ago.
It happened on a cold, winter night. Me and my mother were taking the tram home after having visited my grandfather. And it just came to me. Honest to God, it did. An idea for a story.
About a brilliant scientist on a very cold, remote planet (maybe I was thinking about Pluto, which was still a planet back then.) who discovers a way to travel faster than the speed of light. He’s name was Fertz, an obvious analogy to Hertz, which I thought to be quite clever back then. Then something was going on with good robots and bad robots. That I remember. And I even gave my story a title. “The Future.”
It was supposed to be this really, really long series, and there was a military base on the Moon, and it played a really important role in the stories.
Anyway, the same night, I began writing. I was just mesmerized by what my mind had come up with. I just couldn’t believe that no one had written the story that I had just invented.
Of course, I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but maybe that’s one of two requirements for doing anything in life: you’re either brave enough to do it or so stupid that you don’t have a clue about what you’re getting yourself into.
So I wrote. And I wrote. And so on.
I thought I was great. I really did. I never even stopped to ask myself what I was supposed to do with all the stuff that I wrote. I just knew that things were going to work out.
I guess that’s how people think when they feel they have a calling, a sort of higher purpose in life.
A few months later I posted one of my short stories on a forum. No one liked it. Not even one bit. Someone said I was either a retard or 14 years old (I was both.)
And I was angry. At first because they couldn’t see how brilliant I was, and then because I thought that I would never become who I wanted to be.
That’s when I started reading. The first book I read was Dune by Frank Herbert. After I finished it, I wanted to write something just as good. I just wanted to make someone feel the same way that novel made me feel.
And I kept writing. It didn’t matter that no one read my stories.
Some stories I never finished. Others, never even got the chance to be written. I just imagined them, played around with the idea, the characters for a while, and then I’d sit down and write about something else. Something much more interesting.
By writing all those stories, by reading all the books I could get my hands on, I learned how to write. That’s all it takes: you read and you write, and if you do it long enough, you’ll become a writer.
But there’s one more thing I learned by writing all those stories that no one ever read (sometimes I was afraid to read them as well, simply because I knew that I would realize they weren’t as great as I had thought them to be): I wrote just for the sake of writing. And I had a lot of fun.
Writing this or that story, not worrying about deadlines or whether or not people were going to like them.
I’m a writer because I write, because being a writer is what defines me, defines who I am and who I was and who I will be. And trust me, I wrote for all the reasons you can imagine. I wrote because I had to get those words out of my head, I wrote for fun, I wrote because I wanted to impress people, because I wanted to make them cry or laugh. I wrote because I wanted to leave something behind, because I wanted a really long Wikipedia article about me. I wrote for fame and glory, I wrote for money. I wrote because I was heartbroken, I wrote because I knew no one was going to write my stories for me. I wrote because I was starving. I wrote because I was alone.
I wrote for the entire world, and I wrote for just one person.
I wrote because I knew my stories would never come true, and I wrote because I hoped they would.
And the odd thing is that all those years I never hesitated, I never doubted the fact that I would, someday, become a writer.
And, yes, I did give up writing. For a few days, for a few weeks, even for a few years. And, yes, I felt as if now it’s not the time… now I’m not good enough. But I never doubted the fact that one day I would become the writer I always wanted to be.
In November 2010 I found out about NaNoWriMo. I had never written in English before, so I thought I should give it a shot. I wrote a really bad novel, but I had a lot of fun.
In January 2011 I self-published this novel I had written during NaNoWriMo. Most of you know this part, how I failed at selling copies, at receiving reviews, at properly promoting my book.
Soon I lost interest. And that was the closest I ever got to actually giving up on my dream of becoming a writer. For a few months I didn’t write. I just kept thinking about how lamentably I had failed, about that two star review I got on Goodreads, about all the mistakes and all the naive writing and the unrealistic characters and situations.
Then one night I had an idea. Much like the way it happened when I wrote my first story… it just came to me. Out of a sudden, I knew how to fix things. And I began re-writing this novel.
I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do with it. I honestly didn’t know if it was worth the trouble of self-publishing again. And going down the traditional route… that seemed to be out of reach for someone living so far away from all the agents and the publishing houses…
In September 2011 I found out about Wattpad, an online community where a lot of aspiring writers upload their stories. And I tried my luck, wanting to know if someone would like my story. And to my surprise, they did like it. Very, very much.
That’s all I needed. Not a million dollar advance, not Warner Bros. optioning the movie rights. Just a bunch of teenagers telling me that they really liked my writing.
So I wrote. And wrote. Pretty much like I never wrote before.
And you know what I learned in all my years of writing?
All that matters are the words you write. Nothing else. When you do your thing, it doesn’t matter (and it shouldn’t) what others are going to think about it. When you write, you should stop worrying about whether or not people are going to like your story, whether or not someone’s going to read it, whether or not they’ll care. You should stop worrying whether or not you have something to say or you just want to say something, because you do have something to say. And it’s not about saying something that no one else ever thought of saying, but about saying it in your voice. And that’s something we all have.
Writing is all about finding the courage to write. And courage is all about realizing that some things are more important than fear.
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