I remember my freshman year at Penn State asking Professor Churchill if I had what it took to be a writer. I don’t quite remember how I phrased it–something kind of stoic and factual–but that was essentially the question: should I keep at this, or should I try to find something else to do?
He answered by rubbing my belly and laughing before walking past me to his next class. I was so angry that he didn’t answer me. I couldn’t believe he wouldn’t at least give me a hint as to whether I was cutting it.
Almost 10-ish years later, I get it. Well, I get it much more than what I did before. He saw in me something that I’m sure he saw in a lot of writers that passed through his classroom. He saw what I now see in myself and I think it’s important for all writers to recognize: you’ll probably never feel like you’ve made it.
I’m excluding here the bigger names in our craft. I’m pretty damned sure that Steven King, JCO, and the like are confident that they are making it in the world of writing. For my part, the past two years I’ve been published more and in better places than ever before – and I’m willing to think of myself as a young writer starting to get my spot in the creative world. Have I made it? I don’t know – but I don’t think that’s really a question that can be answered, or should be for that matter.
One of the tricks of being someone who writes is to accept what comes. You’ll never know you’re good or bad until you send your work out into the world and see how it’s received. I realize that will probably piss off some people (the folks who say nobody but yourself can tell you what is good or bad), but I think anyone who denies that truth is being really defensive. I for one think everything I write is hackneyed, but people are finding worth in it, and that helps quiet my inner critics. However, if it were the other way: if I sent out my work and nobody enjoyed it, then it wouldn’t be a matter of quitting and finding some other hobby–it’d be a matter of finding some other reason for writing. I’d need to find some other achievable goal to match my desire to write and foster the want to keep writing.
Still, I think the question lingers: for writers who get publications under their belts and start living the life–do they have a moment of recognition that they’ve achieved “it”?
Maybe not. I’ve not reached it yet and I don’t suspect I will for at least two or three decades to come. Writing is amazing in that the more success you have, the more you need and want. I’m hoping to keep pushing forward and, in all honesty, to never feel like I’ve made it. Because after that, what is there?