What it Takes

Kaye Gibbons

You didn’t just want to hear from me all the time, did you? I thought not. In this new type of piece, let’s mix in some genius tidbits from some folks who might actually know what they’re talking about.

Let’s start with an excerpt from an article that ran in the Oxford American a while back. In it, Southern novelist Kaye Gibbons challenges readers to think about whether they have what it takes to become a writer. But the questions can apply to all types of endeavors … a volunteer expedition to Central America you’re saving up for, a film you’re trying to make … you know, that crazy thing you’re pursuing away from the office. How much normalcy are you willing to relinquish to make it happen?

  • “Are you willing to live embracing intense experience, emotions, and ideas, loving deeply, hating deeply, forsaking mediocrity, preferring complete failure to mere competency?
  • Can you eliminate the people and things, no matter how enjoyable, that suck the creative energy out of you?
  • Are you prepared to go around distracted every waking moment and endure characterizations of yourself as abnormal or flaky when the reality is that you have too much on your mind to think about societal perceptions? …
  • Can you survive for long stretches of time with little or no income? …
  • Does your family “get” that what you do isn’t a job, it’s your life’s mission? Do you feel buffeted by their compassionate comprehension? Are you prepared to give them everything in return?
  • Do you realize that writing fiction isn’t an escape from reality but a harassing, frightening journey into the real story of your meaning in the real world?
  • While you’re locked away, grimy and edgy, criticizing your sorry inability to say what you’re dying to express, can you simultaneously sustain a sort of heightened, almost eroticized self assurance that you’re doing something that no one else can do…?”

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