I’m afraid I’m not talented enough to succeed. I’m afraid that even though I put every fiber of my being into achieving my goal, it still won’t happen because I’m just not good enough.
I’m a writer. Out of all of my hobbies, writing is the one I have invested the greatest amount of true work hours into. Malcolm Gladwell said “… researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” That might also remind you of a Macklemore and Ryan Lewis song aptly named “10,000 hours,” and for a very good reason, they are based on the same principle. To become an expert at anything according to Mr. Gladwell, you have to put 10,000 hours of practice into whatever it is. To writers, those hours can easily be translated and then subsequently measured by word counts.
So, let’s do some math! Well, I guess I’ll do some math and you just have to keep reading this. Good, I’m glad we had that talk. I am 8 days from being 26 years old and in the spirit of rounding up, let’s just say I’ve been alive for 26 years. I have been literate for 22 of those years. I have been writing stories for 10 of those years. On a weekly basis I average 800 written words, most of which are not publishable. That number includes weeks that I’ve written 20,000 words (that happened one time – it was a very good week) and others when I have written absolutely nothing.
4 x 800 = 3200 words a month
3200 x 12 = 38400 words a year
38400 x 10 years = 384000 words all time
For reference the book I just finished reading, Divergent, has 105,000 words. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is 76,944 words. Ulysses by James Joyce is 265,000 words. The longest novel ever recorded is Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard coming in at 1.2 million words. Granted, L. Ron Hubbard can sometimes be described as a psychotic lunatic, but you have to give it to the dude, he wrote a whole hell of a lot of words. For even more reference, my debut novel Odessa Red (available on Amazon.com) is 45,093 words.
Now, this is not to say that the number of written words automatically equals the quality of your product. It’s just saying that as a writer, the designation I identify myself with the most, I am a relative novice. And in that light, here is the cold hard truth: I’m not good enough yet, but I’ve invested too much time and effort to stop now.
On a related note, I truly love writing and because of that love it doesn’t matter how many times I fail, I will never stop. But what you love and what you’re good at are two very different subjects. I know why I love writing. The idea that words in a particular order that did not exist previously can create entire worlds is absolutely amazing to me, and my ultimate goal is to create worlds that I love and that others can fall in love with as well.
I want that very badly, but I will never say that I want it badly enough that I will definitely succeed. I honestly don’t know if I will succeed, and I think that’s the point. I might not be good enough. I might not have the talent to describe the worlds in my dreams. But that has nothing to do with whether or not I will keep writing. I doubt myself often; mostly at night right before I fall asleep. I ask myself why I keep doing this. Why I try so hard. I read books and think that I’ll never be able to encapsulate a story like they did. But then I fall asleep, wake up, get out of bed, and do it all again. Because the elation brought on by success outweighs the misery of failure. Success hasn’t happened yet, and I don’t know if the previous statement is true or not, but I want it to be true so badly and not trying is a great way to never find out if it can be true.
Everyone has something like this in their lives. I love writing. Ask yourself what you love. I don’t know how you feel, but I know that I’m glad I’m afraid of what I love and I think you should be too. Fear drives me toward an unknown future and personally, I’d rather be afraid than be nothing at all.