“Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmon
I began writing in my most vulnerable years. I was dumb and arrogant, as most teenagers seem to be, and I did my best to pour greatness into every sentence I wrote.
But I was also lying to myself, writing about what I didn’t know, pretending to know, and I got caught and people could see that I wasn’t willing to let them in — I was building this wall to protect my true self from anyone who would be searching for it behind my words. There was nothing that belonged to me in the stories I wrote.
There’s this poem by a Romanian poet, Mihai Eminescu. It’s called To My Critics, and the last verses go like this:
It is easy to write verses
Out of nothing but the word.
It Began as a Mistake
It happened on a cold, winter night. My mother and I were taking the tram after having visited our grandfather. And it just came to me. Not kidding, it did. An idea for a story.
The first story I remember writing was about the future. It was about androids and traveling among the stars, and there was this incredible base on the moon.
It was supposed to be a long series of novels…
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.
I never finished writing that story.
The second story I ever wrote was about a guy taking a shower. It was called, “In the shower.” Quite impressive.
I shared this story on an Internet forum, and everyone hated it. I defended my work the best a 14-year-old could do: by telling everyone they were rather stupid for not understanding what my story was all about.
I was told to give up, do something else, or, by those who were a bit more optimistic, to keep writing.
Someone told me I was either a retard or 14 years old. We argued a lot. I told them they didn’t understand literature.
Fun fact of the day: the guy I was arguing with over the web was (and still is) the youngest Romanian writer to ever sign a contract with a publishing house, at 16.
This made me angry nonetheless.
I wrote with anger. I read with anger, with the desire to show them what I was capable of.
This is an often heartbreaking truth about dreams: no one can see them but us.
If we want to live in a dream world, then we must be prepared to be alone most of the time.
I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I wrote about unrequited love, monsters, and worlds that could never exist.
I wrote about who I was, who I hoped to be, and who I’d never want to become.
In high school, I was encouraged by my teachers to keep writing. Someone thought I was talented, someone took the time to read my words.
It matters a lot to a kid, for someone to stare them in the eye and tell them, “you’re talented.”
I thought I was dumb, weird, and quite boring as a kid. No one liked me, and I didn’t like them. It hurt to write because I thought no one would ever care about my words.
Then this high school teacher read one of my stories, and she looked me in the eye and said, “You’re talented.”
And I decided to become talented. Just like that.
Some stories I never finished. Others, never even got the chance to be written into existence.
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.
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, and I wrote 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 months. But I never doubted the fact that one day I would become the writer I always wanted to be.
It Was Still a Mistake…
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 that novel.
I, high on passion and enthusiasm, had dropped out of college. I also sold 2 e-books and 2 paperbacks.
Four months after self-publishing my first novel, I took it off Amazon.
One of the hardest lessons life teaches us is that we can give 100%, truly sacrifice for a dream, and we might still fail.
I had failed. 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 anything at all. I just kept thinking about how I had failed, about that two-star review my book had received 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 my 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 seemed to be out of reach for someone living so far away from all the agents and the publishing houses…
In September 2011 I stumbled upon 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 from a big publisher, not Warner Bros. optioning the movie rights to my book. Just a bunch of teenagers telling me that they really liked my writing.
So I wrote.
And you know what I learned in all my years of writing?
All that matters is that you write. Nothing else. When you do your thing, it doesn’t matter, and it shouldn’t matter, what others are going to think about your story.
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.
The Only Secret Is Obsession
Sometimes I get so seduced by the personal development community that I kind of forget that all the productivity hacks, the mental tricks, the shortcuts, the steps, all of them don’t work unless you are willing to do the work.
There’s no guide on earth that can help you decide whether a dream or a goal is worth the commitment and sacrifice.
You have to decide for yourself if you’re willing to pay the price.
If the answer is yes, then you’ve got to be obsessed about every second of the journey, about every step you take towards your destination.
If there’s one thing that defines me as a writer, it’s this word: I’m desperate.
You read that right. I’m desperate. I always have the mindset of the hungry wolf climbing towards the top of the hill.
Writing is what I love to do most in the world, and writing is what allows me to make sense of the world around me.
Look, I’m going to be honest with you. Daydreaming is nice. Eventually, as you grow older, it does break your heart.
The past and the future should never become places of residence, because they have the tendency of evicting us when we least expect it. And once you find yourself face down on the cold pavement of reality, you’re going to spend an awful lot of time wishing they’d plant you in the ground already.
A dream, especially the one that’s worth fighting for all your life, doesn’t come true unless it’s do or die.
I had to make a choice: I either became a writer, or I’d starve to death. Or become a con artist or something.
A dream comes true the moment you learn how to control your dark side, and how to use it to fuel you when you want to give up, when you’re tired, when you don’t have any money left, when your heartbroken by so many rejections.
That’s how you make a dream come true. It begins as a mistake, and by the time you realize it’s a mistake, you’ve got no other option but to keep going.