For the Readers

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may have noticed that I’ve been having a difficult month. The last two weeks have been particularly difficult because I’ve been so tired, and that affects my mood. Last weekend, all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and sleep. But of course I had work to do.

But today, several wonderful things happened.

When I came home, I had two packages waiting for me. The first was a contract for a project I’m working on that I’ll tell you about soon. I think you’ll like it. The second was this:

It’s my plaque from Strange Horizons, sent to me because “The Mad Scientist’s Daughter” won the readers’ poll for best short story! That means a tremendous amount to me because it’s a readers’ poll, and what I do is for readers. If there were no readers, there would be no reason for me to write.

That’s why I write this blog, too. I write it partly for myself, because some days there are things I just need to say. But I write it partly for you, because you’re the one I want to say them to, and I’m so grateful that you read it, and come back to read more, and comment. (And I’m so sorry that I’m behind on commenting back. It’s this difficult month, and things will get better ā€“ right? I’m making that promise to myself, that things will get better. I believe that.)

And then I received several emails. One from an editor of a literary journal I respect very much, asking me to submit. One from a reader telling me how much he had liked my short story collection. That was a long email also telling me why, and especially nice to receive. And one from James A. Owen, sending me a copy of Drawing Out the Dragons: Meditations on Art, Destiny, and the Power of Choice, his book about ā€“ what is it about? How to make choices, and how to be brave, and how to really, truly live. I could call it inspirational, but I don’t think that would tell you very much about it. So I’ll just tell you that this morning, I sat down at my computer in my university office and opened up my email. I saw the email from James, opened the PDF he had sent me, and read about half of it before I had to meet with students. And it was exactly what I needed at that particular time. It was as though someone had sent me a letter that said, “I did this, so you can do what you were meant to do.” And tonight, I feel as though I can.

I think the most important words in the entire book are the following:

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”

So often I see people who want to do something, but I think they must not really want to do it, because they don’t put in the effort. Anything really worth doing is worth all of your effort. I know I’m going to get into trouble for saying this, but when I see people not putting in all of their effort, I think, they must not really want whatever that is. They must want something else instead.

What I really want is to be the best writer I can possibly be, and to reach out to readers, to tell them my stories (which I’m fairly certain are only part mine, and part from somewhere beyond me), and to have those stories affect them, inform them, inspire them. That’s what I want. And I want to live a life that enables that ambition, which really is an overweening one, because I want to be a sort of cross between J.K. Rowling and Virginia Woolf, which is a truly ridiculous thing to want, isn’t it?

“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.” I’m going to tell myself that seven times seven times a day.

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5 Responses to For the Readers

  1. Charles Tan says:

    Congrats Theodora!

    And James is a great guy. He went through a lot in order to reach where he is now.

    Take care.

  2. Cymru says:

    Yes, congratulations, Theodora! Well deserved.

    Your post was inspiring. You and James have both given me something to think about. There are some stories I find easy to write because I have so much passion for them. But then again, there are stories whose ideas I think are really good and that I get excited about, but I can’t for the life of me make them work. I keep thinking when this happens that I don’t really want to write them. Then I think, why don’t I want to? I feel there’s something fundamentally lacking in them that I can’t quite put my finger on. Writing is a riddle that I can answer probably only half the time. But maybe not all riddles need to be answered. They only need to be asked. I know this one thing above all: there is nothing in this world I want to do more than write stories. And I am writing them. Not all of them turn out, but enough, and those are the ones that really mean something to me because I put all my heart into them.

  3. Alan Yee says:

    I’m interested to learn what this Secret Project is. It must be a for-sure thing if you have a contract for it.

    And congratulations on winning the Readers’ Poll! That is a very shiny plaque. I’m happy to say I was one of the people who voted for your story. Very well-deserved.

  4. Jeff P. says:

    I’m so happy for you re the SH award! I heard you read that story two years running at Readercon, and it riveted me each time. Those SH readers have great taste.

    The rest of your entry bothered me some, though. I’m one of those people you speak of who want to do something but can’t quite get themselves to it (with any regularity, anyway). Give me a deadline and I’m all over it, but if it’s a project I’m initiating with no specific market/goal, I usual fold if I even get started at all. I believe it has to do with blockages rooted in the past, but that and $4 will get me a cup of coffee at Starbucks.

    So, yeah: If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.

  5. James’ book was really inspiring for me too; I luckily had some rare free time the morning (Singapore time) it was released, and I read the entire thing in one shot. My reaction was exactly the same as yours, in that I felt it to be exactly what I needed to see right now. I wrote up a review and appreciation at my blog.

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