“If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.”
“My stories tell me how to tell them better. When you tell a story over and over again, it’s almost like the story tells you, ‘No, no, this way!’ You have to spend a lot of time with a story or a skill or a technique or your writing and it will tell you its secrets.”
My good friend and mentor Rob Gilbert is deeply, emotionally attached to stories. He constantly tells stories on his wonderful motivational Success Hotline (973.743.4690) and he loves it when his listeners send him stories. In fact, his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He has many favorites and from time to time he revisits them on his hotline, but he never seems to tell them the same way twice. And that’s because, as he puts it so well, a beloved story often tells him how it wants to be told.
This has happened to me, too — and I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re deeply immersed in writing a scene and it suddenly takes on a life of its own and tells you where it wants to go. When this happens, your job is to listen and then get out of the way and tell your story the way it wants to be told. I’ve read many interviews in which writers talk about this happening to them with a kind of awe and bewilderment. It’s hard to know how or why this occurs, and when it does, it’s a gift. But it’s a gift you have to earn.
I think these moments come to us as a reward for putting in our time, for staying with something even when it isn’t easy. They come to us when we make a decision not to give up, but to go on, even if we’re not sure where we’re going. And then, in a flash, the path is illumined, we see it, we hear the words in our head, we know exactly what to put on the page, and we race to keep up with the phrases that tumble out of us lavishly, abundantly.
“You have to love what you’re doing and do it thousands of hours,” Rob Gilbert says, before you reach the point where it shares its secrets with you — that’s what mastery is all about. And while getting there takes time, the time it takes is worth every minute of it. Write on!