WHY you want to do something is as important as HOW. I remember the moment I decided I wanted to be a writer.
I was a student at Los Angeles High School. Junior High had been a miserable experience for me in almost every way. Unathletic, unpopular, and a general dweeb, I’d struggled for any scrap of identity, or even to avoid the bullies who seemed to love tuning me up.
High school, I thought, would be an escape. Now, ever since elementary school I’d written stories, and read them to my few friends (or twisted their arms to read them.) But I never really took it seriously. In high school I was in Drama Class (our teacher, Miss Asimow, was a cousin of Isaac Asimov!) and had fun, but one day a representative of the student council came and said they were doing a trash assembly to raise consciousness of a schoolyard cleaning campaign. They were looking for people to write skits.
I volunteered, and they liked what I did and gave me a chance to actually present a skit myself at the assembly. I decided to recite a poem. I don’t know if you remember the original LAUGH IN television show, but there was a guy named Henry Gibson who would recite funny poems while holding a huge artificial flower. It was a funny bit, one of my favorites on the show, and I decided to imitate it.
I came out on stage with a bouquet made of shredded paper and doing my best Gibson impression recited:
“A poem, by Henry Gibson (clears throat, then sing-song)
`I like to look at trash heaps tall
And towering to the sky
They’re beautiful, yes one and all
And made by you and I.
Perhaps one day these glorious things
To which we’ve given birth
Will take to life on orange peel wings
And conquer all the Earth.’
The crowd loved it. Roared with laughter, and all that day people were shaking my hand, slapping my back, telling me I was terrific. Girls were noticing me for the first time.
I went to bed that night thinking: “I want more of that. A LOT more of that.”
It felt great. That feeling…that was the very first time in my life that I caught a glimpse of a possible future path…something that could be fun, and profitable, and make me friends, and attract the ladies. A pretty powerful combination, don’t you think?
And although the real “kicker” didn’t happen until college, something happened that day, and it has remained with me for some 45 years. A moment similar to finding your soul mate. More important.
It was glimpsing my soul itself. That moment has sustained me, reminded me WHY I want to do this thing called writing. No matter how tough things get, I can remind myself of how bad things were before I found this way of being.
I suspect that no matter what you choose to do in life, you can find a “way” of tying it into your childhood dreams (popularity, self-expression, love) in such a way that it keeps you going through the hard times. And trust me…there WILL be hard times. You MUST know why you are doing what you are doing.
The “how” of making money is marketing and sales. But the “why” is what will keep you pushing forward with your art and craft when your heart is broken, or the world is not cheering.
I remember that moment. The world was cheering. For the very first time.
And it has made all the difference.
What was YOUR moment?