My girlfriend and I were discussing each of our creative work on the way back from Jeni's ice cream (always conducive to inspiration). I write (obviously), but specifically, I dream of a day I publish books of all the ideas that take up too much space in my brain. She captures life through her beautiful pictures and videography. Our discussion revolved around the seemingly insurmountable amount of work needed to gain any audience.
She sat, looking out the passenger window, talking about people she knew that were making amazing art full-time. That's what we both want, what many of you reading this want too, the ability to write, draw, make videos, take pictures, or whatever medium you create with, as a full-time career, and actually get paid enough to make a living doing it.
“I wish I could just have the confidence they have,” she said.
That got me thinking. Those artists, might be confident now in their full-time success, but were they at the start? Were they when they had to choose between filling their cars with gas or filling their sandwiches with something other than peanut butter and jelly? Was it confidence that made them create another video after only their moms and closest friends watched the last one? Was it their trust in their abilities, when everyone said this was a stupid career path to choose, that pushed them to send in that short story to yet another magazine? I really doubt it.
Then I realized one thing: fuck confidence. Determination is the fuel starting your career.
I can at least speak for myself. I am at the bitter beginning of hope. I write every day while editing a book on top of that. I plan articles to share to create a base of an audience. I think of short stories and flash fiction to give a glimpse of other things to come. I co-host a podcast to branch out, running a website for that and my own writing, all while working a full-time job as a supervisor in retail. (At least I have a plentiful mine for stories and characterization). I have a handful of people who read the work I produce. I'm thankful for every single read, but it's far from a full-time gig. The worst part is, statistically, I probably won't see this turn into a monetary reality.
If you have made it this far in the article, then you are more than likely in the same exact situation. Will our understanding of the logic behind the chances of commercial success stop us though? Hell no. That's determination talking, not confidence. In fact, those feelings are quite the opposite of confidence. We know this will, more than likely, not become what we hope. We know that thousands of other people are pushing just as hard, maybe harder, making amazing art that only a select few will see. We go to the movies and see that same damn storyline play out and wonder how in the actual fuck did this get made? I'm a better storyteller and I've seen better storytellers in the bowels of Medium, waiting to be unleashed, only to be hidden in the shadows because they couldn't find an audience. That audience, by the way, are like tiny krill in an ocean of ideas, story, and creation, that we hope come to our dark corner of Mariana's Trench. And every time we venture out to showcase what we have, it's lost in the endless tide of other content, drifting to the horizon, unnoticed.
I would be naive to have real confidence. But this isn't an end. There are authors, movie makers, and artists, who looked at that ocean, dove in, and washed up on the shores of something amazing. There are, of course, people that make it. It happens, and it's real. Determination was their weapon of choice.
Back when I finally got my lazy ass to write a book, which year after year I put off because of my level of confidence, one article finally pushed me into pure determination. The title said it all.
You may have seen it, it's from a few years back, but it still has an impact (part of the beauty of writing). The author, Delilah Dawson, shares her story from the start of her career. Before going on, please click that link because it's an amazing article. “But I don't want to be traditionally published,” you say “I'm not a writer,” you're thinking. It's the sentiment in it. The voice rings true for any creator. The sheer determination she had to keep writing. It's real.
Let's look at what she was doing when she started. She was running a blog and had zero connections to the publishing world. (Sounds familiar). All she did was get the ideas she had, and work her ass off to make those ideas a book, and then another, and another. Was it always fun? No. Was it always easy? Rarely. Did she think that she would one day be able to write canon books for the Star Wars franchise? There's no way. Yet, that's exactly what she is doing now. She was in our boat, y'all. Simple as that.
Her article made the dream and the lofty hopes of someday being an author something tangible. It's something that's real. I won't let my logic stop me. I won't let the late nights, thinking this will never turn into anything, be more than an obstacle in my rear view. I will keep writing, keep editing. Let my eyes be bloodshot, let my mind be exhausted while ideas strain to come together, let my wallet be far more empty than I would like, let my handful of readers see something new, and let me just look at the next step. Always.
Because I am a writer. I am an author. I am a creator.
And so are you.