Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Cost of Dreams

If you want to see a 210 pound weightlifter with a shaved head cry, just put on the movie Rudy. It is one of my all-time favourites, of course, and every time they get to the scene where he is finally accepted into Notre Dame, it's Niagara Falls, man.

I can't help it.

It isn't so much about dreams but the work that goes into them. And more than most inspirational movies, Rudy outlines the cost involved with pursuing your passion. I've been writing for more than twenty years, and am just now starting to crack that glass window. In October, a professional editor will be looking at the three books this past year to see what I need to do to go further. In the meantime, I've had nothing but positive feedback from all my beta-readers, some of whom I've never met.

This is all encouraging, and I've had a few people suddenly tell me that they now want to be writers. My first answer is 'no, you don't!' but I offer my help anyway. Not because they aren't talented or capable, but because it's difficult to explain the sacrifice involved getting from point A (writing) to point B (a well written book). In years past, I would have said getting published by one of the Big Six. Like Random House or Penguin. But the publishing industry has changed. Last year more than 700,000 books were published, and only 27% of them were published in a traditional manner.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that a lot of people have access to Amazon. Anyone can upload their work and sell it. Unfortunately, it doesn't say anything about quality. I'm not against self-published books -- I may take that road this coming year. However, to produce quality means effort. And sacrifice. And many nights alone with no reward in sight.

One of my biggest struggles with the newest crop of "I can do that" artists is that they assume that the work is easy. That they can give an hour or two a week and expect to be good. Frankly, anyone who gives an hour or two to a dream is not a dreamer, they're a hobbyist.

Which is fine. Nothing wrong with plugging a few words here and there or trying to write a story. In fact, it's an extremely helpful exercise. If we had a few more people trying to write stories and see things from the perspective of those unlike themselves, we'd probably have a better world.

What I struggle with is the presumption that anyone can do it. That it doesn't require hard work. It does. And if you want to be an artist, it will cost you your life, regardless how you choose to publish.

Writers write because they must, not because it's a "thing" like skinny jeans or vaping or a long beard. In Rudy, his whole life is about making the ND football team, and he's willing to do anything to get there. In other words, he works his ass off.

And when he finally makes it, there's payoff for the viewer, because we've seen the effort.

Do you want to be a writer? A painter? A singer? Great. Are you willing to put the time in? Are you willing to tell your friends to go away, to skip the big event to work on your latest project? I've been called a "wimpy leftie" for a long time. Some people in our society perceive work on a laptop to be less than work on a construction yard. Work in our mind as less than the kind that physically exhausts us. And when we're not being paid like lawyers charging $800 dollars an hour, it is sometimes not perceives as work at all.

What I can tell you is that if you want it, it's there for you. Whether it's writing or some other dream, so long as you're willing to put your hard hat on, you can do it. Just be prepared to get dirty. If you can do that, you can do anything.