I was chatting on LJ with Angela Slatter and girliejones late last night about the desire to succeed at writing. I had an example that's non-writing related.
Ten years ago I worked with this guy—Jimmy was his name—who had a really cool card trick. It's more than prestidigitation, as it has a detailed story behind it that you tell as you lay out the cards and involve the crowd by having them cut the deck. I was so impressed with this trick I went out and bought a deck of cards and had Jimmy show me, slowly, how he did it and I wrote the story down word for word. Then I spent several hours perfecting it until I was ready to try it on someone.
Over the years I've done this card trick for over 500 people, and it almost always amazes folks or at least gets a good laugh. In fact, people will go, "Marshall, show the new guy your card trick." I do. I've had bosses at work have me show it at company meetings to kick the session off with a bit of entertainment before we get down to business. Thing is, after all this time, out of over 500 people I've shown it to, only one person has ever asked me to teach him how to do it like I asked Jimmy to show me. And that person gave up and never did anything with it. It's not really all that hard, it just takes a bit of practice.
When I saw Jimmy doing this trick, there was no doubt in my mind that I really wanted to learn it. But I've always been a bit baffled that no one else asked me to teach it to them like Jimmy taught me. It really is a lot of fun, but I guess not everyone wants to be an entertainer. But I always wondered why I was different and took the time to learn this crazy little thing.
Writing is like that, I think. Here in our little nook of LJ it seems like all of us are working writers, that everyone's a writer. But out in the everyday world you'll bump into a lot of folks who pay lip service to maybe wanting to be a writer someday but never do anything about it. It may seem like everyone wants to be a writer nowadays, and many do, but when you take the entire population into account, as a group we are unique. We're writing fiction, sending it out, and sometimes selling it. Most folks don't have the patience to learn the craft and wade through the multiple drafts it often takes to tell a compelling story. This thing we do is a lot harder than Jimmy's card trick.
Wish I could show you my card trick, but I don't have a camcorder. Here's a version of it from the film The Brother from Another Planet.