All a writer can do is work on the various aspects of craft and write a prodigious number of words, struggling (because without the struggle the writing is as useless as recitation) to find the right words to be used in the exact right way. And the rest, as the great Henry James wrote, “is the madness of art.”
But showing up and giving honest effort, dreaming big when you can, gives the writer the opportunity to write well, the chance to be in the right place at the right time. Randall Jarrell, the poet, once compared writing poetry to standing out in the rain, hoping to be struck by lightening. Sounds a bit ominous, but you get the idea. Maybe it happens, maybe it doesn’t, but if you’re never out in that rain, you will never be struck by lightning. (Another lightning quote comes to mind, this one from Mark Twain. “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Is that true or what? But I digress) Okay, Jarrell’s quote. Good for poets. They’re notorious street-corner and outdoor café loungers. But what about novelists? We’re the grunts, the worker-bees of literature. We can’t simply stand out in the rain and hope for the best; we need plot. We need to go someplace! We need to move! And you can bet a lot of our traveling will be to far away places. It will not only be soggy but treacherous and unforgiving and very, very hard. But we’ve got to do it to have that same chance at making all of our efforts lead us somewhere.
Or so I think today.