I’ve always thought to be truly good at anything you have to be passionate about it. You have to want it more than you want anything else. Essentially, you can’t do it halfway.
I’ve mentioned in the past how I played a lot of basketball when I was a kid. Though I loved football and baseball as well, I was better at basketball than those other two. I began playing basketball when my friend, Tony, moved in two houses down from us. He was the first black kid I had ever met and we became fast friends. He showed me a place where we could play basketball everyday if we wanted to. It was a gym where there were no other white kids.
(A little caveat, if you will: I had wanted to play basketball before meeting Tony, and we had a goal nailed to a tree in our yard. My dad had shown me how to do a lot of things necessary to play basketball, but at the age of ten, I still wasn’t all that great at any of them. But that is a story for another day.)
It was daunting at first, being the only white kid there. I was called a lot of names that could be considered racist. That didn’t bother me. What did bother me was losing all the time. The first few times I went there, I was humiliated; I was played right out of the gym. I am crazy competitive and losing is a bad thing now, and was a horrible thing back then. One day I stopped going there to play, and started going just to watch. I watched how the older kids played, how they dribbled, the way they shot the ball, the way they passed. I watched the way they played defense. I listened to their trash talk, even as I sat in the bleachers and wasn’t even playing.
And I watched some more.
Still, I watched.
I took the things I saw in that gym home with me and practiced them in my backyard. I didn’t say anything or ask for help. I just tried to figure out how this guy could do this and that guy could do that, and holy cow, how did he do what he did? Then I went back to the gym. I still got beat on a regular basis by the older, more experienced players, but I was beginning to figure out the game and how to score and play defense and how to win.
Eventually, I did win. And I continued to win. The White Boy Cracker became one of them and the derogatory remarks faded all together.
The only reason that happened was because I was passionate about the game of basketball. I worked hard at learning everything I could about it. I worked hard at figuring out how to get better and how to beat my opponents. No one worked harder than I did.
That leads me to writing. I have often spoke about how I was told by one editor I should never write another story, that I just wasn’t good at it and never would be. It was an insult—and solely his opinion.
I have also mentioned how I queried a publisher once in hopes of having a short story collection put out by them and received a response something like, ‘Are you the A.J. Brown who has stories published here, here and here?’ My response was, ‘Yes, I am.’ To which I never heard back from the publisher.
I’m not going to rehash all of that in detail here, but I will say, just like when I was learning how to play basketball, I stopped writing after both of those interactions, but not because I was giving up. Oh no. It was because I needed to learn more. I needed to become a better writer. In order to do that, I had to get quiet, pay attention, and become passionate about the craft of writing.
I know it is cliche to say writing is a craft, but it really is an art form. I often say writing stories is like writing songs that have no music accompanying them. Again, that is for later.
For now, I need to stress passion. I pour myself into my stories. I don’t write anything I feel is going to suck. If I don’t enjoy writing it, then I stop. Why? Because if I don’t enjoy writing the story, what are the chances you, the readers, will enjoy reading the story? Pretty slim, folks. Pretty slim.
I have a desire. No, it is not a dream, but a desire. That desire is to have readers—and a LOT of them. That desire is to have people want my stories. That’s not a dream. It’s a desire. With that desire comes passion. I am so passionate about writing stories that I don’t do things the way everyone else does. No, that does not make me eccentric. I just don’t think a lot of writing is good these days because everyone is writing the same thing, in the same voice, and in the same way as everyone else.
My passion for writing and getting my name out there is so strong it hurts sometimes. No, that doesn’t mean I am suffering for my craft. That means I want this so bad I can taste it. It means, like when I was a kid and playing basketball in a gym of older, more experienced men, I will not be outworked on this.
Will I ever make millions at writing? Probably not. Making a living writing is one of the hardest things to accomplish. But I bet it would be so rewarding. If I want to make a living doing this or if I want more than the readers I have now, then I have to work at it, and work hard. I am just passionate enough about the written word that I can tell you without doubt, no one will outwork me. My desire, though it is a mountain to climb, is a desire like no dream ever was. My passion…there is no rival to it.
One more thing: it is because of that passion and belief in myself that you should pick up one (or all) of my books. I believe you can read that passion and desire in my words. I could be wrong, but I don’t think so. Don’t you want to find out for yourself? If so, follow this LINK. You won’t be sorry.
Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.