Yesterday, I spent my night listening to an old friend named B sing his heart out to a mostly empty dining room in a fancy restaurant, which is why I'm late in commenting on everybody's blog. It was an ordeal for mostly everyone involved. Except maybe for B, who was having the time of his life, and maybe for his wife, who seemed to be enjoying every minute of it.
I didn't go with the highest expectations. I've heard B perform before, and I've seen him in plays. He's not awful, but he's not exactly good either. He's got the passion and the drive, but not the raw talent that's needed to really succeed. He can sing fairly well, and can hold a tune for the most part, but his concerts are going to be, for the most part, in mostly empty, fancy restaurants populated by a few friends and his wife's dance students.
I'm not writing about this to put B down or to squash his dreams or criticize him. On the contrary. He gave me inspiration. B could go out there and sing his soul out to a few dozen people who clapped for him and smiled and enjoyed him for the most part. It took courage. It took guts. It took a mindset that didn't care about what people said about him, what people thought about him, to go up there and do what he loved. B didn't see the emptiness of the place. He didn't hear the slight snickers of the waiters. He didn't see the overly expensive bad food and general nasty smell of the restaurant. What he saw was the smiling faces, the couples dancing on the floor, the clapping hands and the shouts of encouragement. He saw happiness. He saw joy. He saw the good.
When we write, I think we have the tendency to focus on the negative. We worry that we're not making enjoyable characters, likable characters, that our chapters aren't long enough, our words not good enough, our plot old and worn out. We think that we won't have any queries accepted, that no one will buy our book, that publishers will reject us again and again. We see the negative, not the positive most of the time. It's hard to see the positive in this profession, the joy of writing, the exuberance of creating characters, the pride of a well-turned phrase. We look too far ahead at the sales figures, the book tours, the queries, the prospect of finding an agent/editor. We need to focus on the moment, on the writing, on the story, on the characters.
Living in the moment is hard, but in the long run, it's easier than living with doubts and fears. After all, writing's all about the creation, not the gain afterward.