Mark Terry

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another Word For What Ed Said

November 13, 2006
Ed Bradley died late last week. I was saddened by this because I thought Ed was a class act in a business that has far too few class acts. I not only watched "60 Minutes" last night about Ed, but this morning I read an essay by Ron Allen about Ed and he says this:

"So, how the heck did you do it?" The answer, as I recall, was "Hard work." Doing your homework. Never getting type-cast to do only the "black stories." And something he said to me recently again, "You've got to really believe you can get where you want to go."

* * *

"You've got to really believe you can get where you want to go."

I've never really doubted that I would eventually get novels published, or make a living as a writer. I had doubts, sure, I'm not insane. But I never really, really had that "it's just not going to happen" thing down in my gut. If I did, I would have quit, and I never quit. I kept working (that's Ed's hard work thing) and learning (doing your homework thing).

There's another word for this: faith.

Faith in yourself. In your abilities.

I've always had faith in what I often feel is my key asset as a writer--persistence.

I figured if nothing else I could wear down the publishing world by continually coming back with better things, getting to a point where somebody had to say, "This is good, we'd be fools not to publish this."

Of course, now that I'm getting published regularly, the goal shifts a bit to not only writing so well that editors and publishers say that, but to sell enough copies so that it's not simply (ha!) a quality issue, but an economic one, as well.

In other words, I want editors and publishers to say, "Yeah, Mark Terry's last book sold so well we'd be fools not to publish his next one. And besides, it's great."

You have to believe it'll happen. You have to believe that you have the talent, that you have the skill, that you have the persistence, the craft, and maybe even the luck, to see this through.

It's going to border on obsession unless you do everything right the first time. I've met very few writers that haven't got a boatload of rejection slips behind them (which in many ways never seem to go away). Your family might think you're crazy. There will be times when you'd much rather be watching TV or sleeping or reading someone else's book than working on your own.

You've got to believe it's worth it. And if you don't believe it's worth it, then it's not.

As Ed said, "You've got to believe you can get where you want to go."

Mark Terry


Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I think you're basically right about this. For the most part you need to believe to persist. However, I do think it is possible that someone might take a very gloomy view of matters and yet continue on out of sheer obstinance. :)

10:03 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I'm not sure my persistence is really all that different from "sheer obstinance." I also think that writing for me became something of a habit.

I was also afraid to quit because I always thought, "If you quit you won't get published. What if you were one book away from getting published or one book away from a big hit..."

I have wondered at times if there are people out there who persist out of some sort of mental illness, an inability to recognize that things aren't working. I think human beings are uniquely capable of self-deception. "I'm a really great novelist" despite all evidence to the contrary.

There's often this big gulf between our self-perceptions and reality when it comes to our abilities (or our personalities, hey, I'm a nice guy...). I suppose if the gulf gets wide enough we get what the shrinks call cognitive dissonance.

10:13 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I've seen would-be writers who -- in my opinion -- are clearly deluded in their aspirations. Of course, I've read books by authors and thought whoever published them was deluded. There is always the uncomfortable question -- what if I'm just fooling myself?

1:30 PM  
Blogger Rob Gregory Browne said...

Believing is what it's all about.

Years ago, when I was up for the AMPAS Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting against several thousand entrants, I just KNEW I was going to win. I don't know why I knew it, but I believed.

A few months later I was in Hollywood and my screenwriting career was born thanks to winning that fellowship.

Then, when I decided to turn to novels, I wasn't even halfway through KISS HER GOODBYE when I KNEW that it would sell. Even though others would just nod and say, "Uh-huh, how nice" when I told them I was writing a book. I still believed.

About three months or so after I completed KISS HER GOODBYE, I signed a two book deal with St. Martin's.

You always have to believe in yourself. Even when nobody else will.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous spyscribbler said...

But Rob, I wonder if you 'knew' it because it was 'meant' to happen.

Are the persistance, drive, and faith there because 'it was meant to be?' Sorry to get all fru-fru, lol.

Persistance and hard work are everything, in my mind. For some odd reason, the most talented people I know don't do the work, and don't succeed. (Will someone tell me why that is?) Unless you're one of the rare humans that posesses both talent and a work ethic (like Stephen King), talent isn't that huge a factor.

At least, I hope it's not, lol ...

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