Patience, Determination, Humility, Hope (oh, and the inaugural Day of the Playwright)

Maybe patience is the opposite of determination. Maybe humility is the opposite of hope. Maybe a writer needs all of them. And maybe they don't always look like you'd expect.

Many, many years ago — before I'd published or produced a word of fiction, poetry, or drama that I intended to submit anywhere, even before I'd been to Clarion — I wrote a little story that pleased me very much. No magic or aliens or any of the other things with which I usually manage to populate my stories, just a plain old story. Kinda funny, a little bit sad in places. I sent it a few places; nothing happened. I put it away, and went on to write many, many other things, and to get a lot better as a writer.

Recently, I heard about a story competition run by the fabulous BBC Radio 4 for short stories. I pondered. I wondered. I took that little story out and polished it up using the experience I'd accumulated over the intervening years. I sent it in. It got longlisted. It got shortlisted. And now they've posted it; you can find it here, for your entertainment.

Yes, a story that languished for nigh onto a decade did, finally, get a home. Now, what does that have to do with patience, determination, humility, and hope? It's just that this story's story pointed out that they can take more than one form, and help the writer in more than one way.

For example, sometimes patience means "Keep sending, keep sending, keep sending." Not this time. This time, patience meant I didn't keep forcing that little story out into the world when it wasn't ready. I was able to wait until I had the skills I needed to take a good idea and present it the way it deserved.

Sometimes determination means "Keep being strong, even when nothing is happening." This time, it meant "Believe in that story, be strong enough to look at it and change it where it needs changing, and send it out, yes, one more time, with gritty confidence."

Sometimes humility means "Stop thinking you have nothing to learn, stop thinking you've got it all sorted and people should bloody listen to you." In this case, it meant, "Be humble enough not to write off your early work. You're not so great now that you can afford to turn your back on what you were. Value your whole journey as a writer."

Sometimes hope means believing that we are not cold, hard, past-trapped stone, but brilliant, brave beings who can always fly up and out, to somewhere new and exciting. This time — no, wait, yeah, it always means that.


In other news, tomorrow (July 28) has been designated by the Australian Writers Guild as the inaugural Day of the Playwright. If you know a playwright, give them a hug tomorrow. Or a nice bottle of wine; wine would be nice. I like pinot noir and merlot. I'm only saying, is all.


At 3:36 PM, Blogger Houston Dunleavy said...

There's a dozen Pinot in the cupboard at home... :)


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