“If you build it, they will come.” —Field of Dreams
How many writers live by these words? The dreams of becoming a successful author in a vast sea of writers and books and hype, an ocean of fears and worries and dashed hopes? What does it take, at the end of the day, to find the fortitude and courage to continue on with your writing in the face of insurmountable odds? I’m not really talking here about people with one story to tell, usually nonfiction or memoir, but rather, those of us who live to write stories, and keep doing so no matter what. Are we all, as Ray Kinsella seemed in the film, just garden-variety nuts?
Probably. I mean, when young folks ask me what it takes to be a writer, I bite my tongue from answering, “Basic insanity.” Because, of course, we’re supposed to encourage our youth J But that’s pretty much the only reason I don’t reply that way.
One doesn’t have to be in this business a terribly long time to come upon a mountain as high as Mt. Everest, which shoots into the atmosphere to dizzying heights, rocky and steep and filled with deadly crevasses, all of which can maim you to the point of death (just ask John Kennedy Toole or a host of others).
But what is that elusive element that keeps us, after slamming again and again to our knees, getting up again to write another day? When boiled down to the essence, what drives us?
That dream. A hope that we will produce something beautiful, something that contains all the elements of great fiction in order to last; in order for someone to read and “get” it. That a book we pen in the obscurity of our solitary worlds, staying there for months and even years on end, will see the light of publication and be recognized as something good.
A novel of mine that I love, I Just Came Here to Dance, was published this month, and has been receiving beautiful reviews. One from this week just took my breath away. But it wasn’t just the review itself that warmed my heart, it was that the book came out at all, and that that one person “got it.” This novel was a very long time in the making, and saw its share of despondency. But it’s one I’ve always believed in, and could never give up on. Do I hope more people find its beauty? Of course. But the size of the audience isn’t the thing. It’s the story itself. And, that crazy dream.
It always tweaks me a bit that the opening quote here didn’t actually come until very late in the story, almost the end. The first mention by the “voice,” and subsequent ones, didn’t say it that way. What it actually said was, “If you build it, he will come.” Singular. An obfuscated meaning for poor Ray lay there as well, but the point for our purposes is that in actuality, it just takes that one reader—the one who gets it—to make the whole endeavor worthwhile.
So build it. Toil. Strive. Go dizzy with the rush of creativity, and weak with the energy expended to finish. Build it. And he will come.