I guess what it comes down to is how bad you really want it. Can you see yourself doing anything else? Are you willing to make the sacrifices to do what it takes in order to get you where you want?
He looked me in the eyes and questioned my integrity. My character. My ability and talent as a writer. His words still play over in my head like a dulling, broken record. How bad do you want it?
I didn’t respond. I let him continue to talk. After all, it’s rude to interrupt the teacher. Even though I sat there, on the back patio of his Brooklyn apartment, trying not to explode. How bad do I want it? That’s like asking me how bad do I want to live. How bad do I want happiness? How bad I’m willing to fight for it. And am I willing to fight for it? You better believe it. I don’t give up easily, and I usually get what I want.
It was a hot day, but there was a nice, cool breeze. The mulberry trees that shaded his deck swayed whenever the wind picked up in a crisp stride. Laughter of kids living next door echoed off the brick apartment building walls. Car horns added only soft melody. The sun struck my back violently. I was sweating in my long-sleeved, black blazer. But I didn’t care—that wasn’t the hard part. You want to talk about hard? Having somebody question your motives. Your craft. What you pride yourself on. Don’t end a sentence with a preposition, right? Oops.
Cutting edge is how you’d describe his work. Racey, sharp, sarcastic. Blunt.
“You tell it how it is,” I said. “And so do I.”
“Well, that’s a start,” he said.
He told me how hard it was going to be in order to get started. It wouldn’t be glamorous. It’d be grueling. A grueling journey is how he put it. Hard work. Mental and physical labor. Why do you want to be a writer?
“I want to be a writer because I want to relate to people,” I remember saying. It came out of my mouth like word vomit.
“What makes you so sure people want to read what you write?”
“No, I’m asking you. Why do people read in the first place?”
I think people read anything because they’re curious. They want to learn something new. If you pick up something to read in the first place, you’re obviously interested in obtaining information, new or old. You want an escape—an escape from your own reality, for whatever reasons it may be. Or maybe what you read is your reality? Who’s to say that it’s not? And, if you have the power to shape another person’s sense of reality, why wouldn’t you?
“Nobody knows who you are,” he said next. “You’re just starting your journey. What road are you gonna take?”
I don’t care what road I’m going to take, but I’m going to get there. What it’s a matter of is if you’re going to help me or not.
“An editor, you say?” he said.
“Well, that’s a little presumptuous, don’t you think?”
No. I don’t think it’s presumptuous. And who are you to say so? Sure, I’ve done my research. I’ve been on the site. I’ve read your entries. I know you’re a big name around those parts. But who are you to me?
A teacher. And me? A devoted student. A sponge, willing to put in hard hours, willing to soak up any advice, any bit of information or experience or task or assignment you put before me. A loyal person. A person of dignity. And integrity. A person who knows she’s good at what she does, but a person who wants to be better at it. And strives to be better at it. And will be better at it. A person who’s grateful and appreciative for the investment of your time. Because after all, time is what really matters. And how you spend it. That’s all why we’re so busy, isn’t it?
Why do I want to be a writer? I don’t think there’s a straightforward answer to that. Writing is not something I do. It’s who I am. It’s how I make sense of the world around me. Why can’t I express how I feel in conversation? Why does it have to be on paper? I don’t know. But am I afraid to express how I feel? Scared, you say? Not in the slightest.
Every person is the same. We all go through our own struggles and battles in life. Every person is fighting his or her own, private battle. The deciding factor in what makes or breaks a person is this: how do you react to that battle? Do you sit there and let it break you down? Do you analyze the situation or feel sorry for yourself? Or do you get pissed off, get up and do something about it?
I’ve never been the kind of person to lie down and let people stomp on me. For what? Why would I? I don’t care who you are or how much money you have or how much power and influence you have over others. You’re a person. But keep fueling my fire, because it’s a motivator. A big satisfactory fact that one day I’ll be saying, “I told you so.”
A little too much pride, you say? Cocky, perhaps? No, just confident. Lacking experience? Absolutely.
“You have no idea what the real world is like,” he said.
And how do you know that?
“I don’t think the world owes anybody anything,” he said.
And I agree. I think what you get out of anything depends on how much you put into it. How much you, yourself, put into it. Is it important to you? If so, why wouldn’t you invest time and effort into a passion that makes you happy?
It is true. The real world knocks you down. There are a lot of setbacks. A lot of times where I feel like giving up. But for what? What do I have to lose? If I don’t try, how do I know I can’t go beyond my own expectations and capabilities of myself? Expecations and capabilities that are pretty high, by the way. I don’t have to prove anything to anybody, if I can’t prove it to myself, first.
“Well, I have a feeling about you,” he said.
I have a feeling about you too. The real question is, are YOU willing to take the risk? Because I am. And I will. On your team, or not. Because that’s how bad I want it.