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 – 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 – 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.