I was listening to a recorded interview with coach John Wooden earlier in the week. I'm sure he is a familiar figure to US readers, but for those who do not know him, he is an American basketball player and coach, most famous for winning seven NCAA national championships in a row as the coach of the UCLA team (and ten in a 12 year period).
It's a strange thing with me. I'm not much a sport follower at all, and a very restless spectator (that said I think I would happily play any sport), yet I love movies about sportsmen or coaches who overcome the odds. I guess it's a heroic story, but also I think to succeed in writing takes a similar high level of dedication, high-level skill and belief.
In the interview, John Wooden covered a lot of ground, and I was impressed by the sense of character that came through the audio. When he reached his 'Pyramid of Success' - my ears really pricked up (you can get a printable pdf copy from the links at the bottom of the John Wooden Wikipedia page). There are fifteen elements in total that build the Pyramid, and each has a whole story attached too it. Too many to list here. What really caught my attention was what he called his two 'cornerstones' - the two elements at the left and right bottom corners of the Pyramid. Elements so vital that if taken away they will cause the Pyramid to collapse.
The two cornerstone elements were Industriousness and Enthusiasm. Writing it down it sounds a little simple, but I guess it was something in the way he said it that really impressed me. It also got me thinking. Industriousness - I guess we all know it's about getting the words down - putting in the 10,000 hours it takes to become an expert in anything. But enthusiasm is just as vital. You can bang away at the computer, like getting blood out of stone, but if you are not inspired - if you are not filled with a raw enthusiasm for the art you are creating, then what you are producing is well crafted - but flat. I think it is true to say that an editor will more likely be excited about something raw that grabs them, then something well-crafted that seems samey. That is a real trap with crit groups - if you take on too much criticism you will kill your piece.
I guess it just struck a chord with me. I have been pushing ahead like an ice-breaker for years now, working against everything that life has thrown at me, but I think I have lost a little bit of that innocent love for the work that first drew me into this field. I am looking forward to recapturing it:)
How do you keep your love for the work alive when the going gets tough?