Wanting It Enough

“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.” Phyllis A. Whitney

I love this quote by Phyllis A. Whitney. Her “Guide to Writing Fiction” was the very first book about writing that I ever bought. I’d been writing for a number of years, no doubt unaware that such books about writing even existed. I was pretty naive in the beginning, not to mention there wasn’t a whole lot of money in my budget for buying books way back then. Sometimes it’s difficult to justify spending money on something that seems like an impossible dream.

It was within the pages of Phyllis A.Whitney’s “Guide to Writing Fiction” that I learned the difference between showing and telling. For me, it was as if a light bulb had gone off. I instantly understood what it meant. I had heard the term “show don’t tell” before and intellectually I knew what it meant, but until I saw an example of it I really didn’t understand it fully. There were two wonderful paragraphs in the book that demonstrated the difference between a passage that tells and one that shows. I was in heaven!

I’m not a writer who owns a lot of books on writing, nor have I ever taken a writing course. I sometimes wonder if it’s not best to find one or two good books on writing and use them as your guide. The truth of it is, all the writing books in the world will not get us published. If we want to be published we must write, write, write, and as Phyllis A. Whitney said, “we must want it enough to take the disappointment and discouragement.”

Believe me, twenty-five years ago I wasn’t sure I’d ever have anything published. All I knew was that I had to try. Back then I could have told myself any number of things that would have stopped me in my tracks such as, I didn’t have the education, the vocabulary, or even a computer to write on, but I didn’t.

When you have that knowing in you, that this is what you were meant to do, it’s as if you throw all common sense out the window. If I listened to my common sense it might have told me I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer, but my heart said otherwise.

Did I know how hard rejection would be to take? Did I even know how long it would be until I learned enough about writing to have someone want to publish my work?

Of course not.

Back then I didn’t know if I’d ever have a single thing published. I don’t own a crystal ball. (Wish I did sometimes.)What I did know was that I didn’t want to look back one day, filled with deep regret, and wonder what it? Surely I owed myself that much. So while the most important lesson I learned in writing was the ”show don’t tell” rule I also discovered an important life lessons through writing.

“You must want it enough…”


For the writers out there: What do you feel was the most important lesson you have learned from writing?

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14 Comments

  1. That’s a tough question. I think what has affected me most is the realization that words have power. They can entertain, anger, instruct, and in numerous other ways affect the people who read them. It makes me very careful about what I write–especially if it’s going online.

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    • So true, Carol. There are many people out there who would do well to learn that lesson and realize just how powerful words really are.

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  2. Well put as always Laura. I guess the most important lesson I have learned over the years is that perseverance and patience pays off. “The reward of patience is patience” St. Augustine. I have certainly learned a lot of patience through my writing.

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    • Thanks, Darlene.Oh writers certainly need to learn perseverance and patience if they expect to have their work published. No matter how impatient we might be, there’s nothing out there that can speed up the process. Might just as well sit back and enjoy the journey as we go.

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  3. Wonderful post, Laura. I remember those years/months/days, wanting it so bad I could taste being published. I measured myself by the fact I wasn’t published. If no one wanted to print my books, then I must have been a lousy writer. Oh dear. Took many years, rejections and hard work to realize no one can tell me I’m a lousy writer except me. LOL.

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    • So true, Joylene. And that also fits well with Darlene’s comment about patience and perseverance. We do need to believe in ourselves to keep going in the face of rejection and have patience to keep working and waiting for the day when someone does want to publish our work.

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  4. I must admit I’ve struggled with taking myself seriously as a writer over the years even though I have had some things published. I tend to measure my success by that as I suppose many writers do.

    I’m still struggling to feel strong and confident when it comes to my writing. As the writer in the previous post said so well, no one can tell me I’m a lousy writer except me. I’m the one who stops me, not the rejections or the indifference I encounter.

    If I love writing enough, those things shouldn’t stop me. I’ll keep writing through the ups and downs and if I get published along the way, that will be like a special dessert to savour along the way.

    It’s always been the creative process I enjoy the most anyhow. All the rest is gravy as the cliche goes. (Bad, Cathy using a cliche. My many, many writing books would all have something to say about that! heheh)

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  5. I think a lot of writers have a difficult time taking themselves seriously.I know I did. It didn’t seem to matter that I was published. Somehow it didn’t seem like enough. Now I have a book out and people keep asking when the next one is due. So some days even having a book doesn’t seem like enough because it feels as though I need to be able to say there are dozens waiting in the wings. But that is only some days. Most days I’m very happy where I am and like you enjoying the creative process. Maybe we just need to tune out the rest of the world.

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  6. hmmm, it’s a tough question, Laura, to e great post!

    I think one if the tops is the fact that we all see different things when we read, and sometimes, I have to work really hard to get certain things which are so evident to me, accross in my writing.

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  7. 1959duke

     /  April 6, 2011

    One of my passions in life is the studying of the use of words. No matter how many new gadgets come along it still comes down to words and the way they are used.

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    • Hi Mike. Nice of you to drop in. If words are your passion than you should be all means follow your heart. The use of words is a wonderful thing. I totally agree.

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  8. I often think of something one of my dearest writer friends said to me about an emotional scene I was struggling with. It’s a variation on your “show don’t tell” advice. She said, “Don’t tell me I should feel sad in this scene. Get inside your character and feel it, and I will too.”

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    • That is good advice, and it’s something that does take practice. We have to feel what the character is feeling not just know what they’re feeling. Without that connection there really is no point and we soon lose interest.

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