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What on Earth Are You Here For?

The following post is adapted from my article, “The Purposeful Writer” published September 2012 in SHORELINES, the Long Island Romance Writers newsletter. Although the original was written for fellow writers, I believe it’s easily adapted to any life pursuit. Let me know what you think!

What On Earth Are You Here For?

By Jolyse Barnett

One of the most influential non-fiction books I’ve read as an adult was The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? by Rick Warren. As I began my quest as a new writer, quotes from this bestselling book would pop into my head, and I soon realized many applied to my life as a writer. They easily apply to whatever your passion or life pursuit entails. Here are three of my favorites:

“Relationships take time and effort, and the best way to spell love is “T-I-M-E.”

If we are passionate about something, we take the time and effort to learn it. We don’t try to cut corners. Learning your craft well takes time. For writers, that means write, write, and write some more. Read about writing, read a variety of genres, and consider story elements in the various dramatic forms. Accept the ebb and flow of writing. Think about writing, keep a journal, talk to your characters, and people-watch for character and dialogue ideas—whatever inspires creativity.

One of the greatest lessons I learned in my first two years as a serious writer was the importance of thinking like a writer, not a reader. A reader enjoys the well-crafted novel, but the writer understands the purpose of each part of a story, and how they interconnect to convey a particular mood and move the story forward. Time spent writing allows the writer to develop her voice as well.

 “Why is this happening to me? Why am I having such a difficult time? One answer is that life is supposed to be difficult! It’s what enables us to grow. Remember, Earth is not heaven!”

People at all stages of their career likely experience setbacks or at least little roadblocks during the learning process. Yet-to-be-published writers like me may fret about getting an agent or selling that first book. Debut authors may worry about sales and getting the contract for their next story. Multi-published authors may be concerned with meeting deadlines, juggling the business aspect of writing, and maintaining their love for the art of writing. Remember, follow your dream career not because it’s easy, but because it’s your passion.

“Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain.” 

You invest yourself and your time into making your dream a reality, and it’s painful to fail. Your hard work is rejected. This experience may cause some people to give up, hide from judging eyes, and move onto less frustrating, wound-inducing pursuits. When I received my first rejections as a writer, I was very disappointed, but I determined to use that experience to improve my first novel and future work. Learning from your failures in life, and persevering despite failures will lead to ultimate success. I’m not a quitter, and neither are you.

What on Earth are you here for?

3 comments on “What on Earth Are You Here For?

  1. Great stuff, Jolyse! I’ve learned so much while waiting to get published in fiction, and now I’m actually glad I’ve had to wait. I wouldn’t have been ready before (still might not be). Keep at it!

    1. Thanks for sharing, Gwen. My career started off very quickly, with an overall first place award in the first writing contest I entered.My dream editor requested my ms as a result, and I thought I may be one of those overnight successes. I didn’t get THE CALL, but I did receive a thoughtful two-page rejection. I was heartbroken, but I knew I truly wasn’t ready for all that this career entails. I’ve worked hard this past year-and-a-half since the rejections to improve as a writer and to learn the business. It will happen, and when it does, I will be ready.

      You’re doing great. Keep with the fiction writing too! 🙂

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