How a dead dude helped me rediscover my drive to write

How a dead dude helped me rediscover my drive to write
Photo by Antonio Litterio via Wikimedia Commons

“You fail only if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury

I kind of want to punch Ray Bradbury in the face for this quote. It’s 11:30 p.m as I’m writing this. I’m exhausted. I want to go to bed. Oh man, I want to go to bed. But I ran across this quote today, and I know it’s time to write again. And – maybe, just maybe – to finally devote myself to it.

Punching Ray Bradbury is not an option, though. Mostly because he passed away last year. Partially because I’m fairly sure I would lose a fight even to a dead dude.

So here I am. Writing. Muttering under my breath about Ray Bradbury like a crazed man. It’s probably good that my wife is sleeping peacefully in the bedroom.

This is my third attempt at a column tonight. The last two attempts have been deleted. Lost in the annals of time. It’s OK. Really. You’re not missing anything. They were whiny. Even more so than this one.

But I have a good feeling about what I’m writing now.

And It’s been much too long since I’ve felt that.

• • •

Since penning a tale in the fourth grade about how the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles saved Christmas – we didn’t learn about trademark infringement until fifth grade – I’ve felt compelled to write. It wasn’t because I thought it was a particularly good story. (Using the TMNT Pizza Thrower to deliver Christmas presents was – frankly – a bit contrived.) It wasn’t even because I thought I had a knack for writing.

It was because of one simple reason:

When I read the story aloud to my classmates, they laughed in enjoyment. I still remember that laughter. I was hooked. By age 10, I had found my drug of choice – causing others to laugh through my writing.

I have been striving to do that ever since. I wrote humor columns during high school. I wrote humor columns during college. I wrote humor columns during my newspaper career, even when my job titles – sports reporter; page designer; managing editor – didn’t really call for them. And when I left newspapers, I started this blog.

Some columns hit the mark. Some columns fell flat. Such is writing. But I have treasured every email or letter I’ve received from someone who took the time to write to me after reading to express their enjoyment. That joy hits me every time.

I don’t typically write for myself. I write for others. And if I write something and nobody reads it, to me – at least – it’s as if that column doesn’t even exist. The falling tree makes no sound.

Which is why I’ve struggled so much with this blog. Unlike with newspapers and their built-in audience of subscribers, I never know how many people will read what I write at Going for Gusto. Maybe 1,000. Maybe three.

And, well, it finally got to me this year. I’d spend hours working on a column and then discover just five people read it. I am not alone with this. Many, many things are ignored every day on the Internet. It’s a place where you can find the world at your fingertips. But it’s also a place where you can find your own work lost among a billion stars, a forgotten point on a constellation that was never imagined.

I was discouraged. I no longer wanted to write. So I didn’t. I’ve been writing less and less this year and during the past two months I’ve barely created a sentence that wasn’t work-related.

Then I saw the quote.

“You fail only if you stop writing.” – Ray Bradbury

• • •

“I love to succeed” and “I hate to fail” are not the same thing. Not even close.

For most of my life, I was among the “love to succeed crowd.” I would attempt something knowing I probably would fail, but excited for the small chance at victory. Lately, though, I have fallen into the latter category, beating myself up over every little failure to the point where I have started to condition myself to not want to try. True failure, though, as Ray Bradbury attests to, is not a series of failures. True failure is the unwillingness to have a series of failures.

I don’t know how it happened. I don’t really care. I just want it to change.

But change is never magical. It’s never instantaneous. It requires work. Which in my case, means writing.

Some of my posts will garner less than 10 views. Probably even this one. But that’s OK. I’ve been looking at this all wrong. At least 10 people will have read it. And if I can make a day a little more enjoyable for even just one person through my writing, then it was worth it.

It’s 12:15 a.m. now. It’s dark. I have written my piece. I will fine-tune this in the morning. I’m thankful for Ray Bradbury. For reminding me not to give up. For reminding me to continue chasing my passion.

I will continue to write for whoever might want to read me. I will write because – whether talented or not compared to others – it’s what I do best. And I will write because of the small chance that someone, somewhere is reading my work and laughing in enjoyment. And the chance of that success is worth every failure.

So, Ray Bradbury, I will write again. I will fail again. And – through that – will find my success.

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