I like to collect motivational sayings, the ones that encourage you to follow your heart and pursue your dreams. I think it helps make me feel like this atypical lifestyle I’ve chosen of contract work and tight budgets is worth it and will amount to something in the end. It combats the Am-I-Crazies, something that’s almost universally encountered among writers aspiring to publication (or anyone aspiring to their dreams, really).
In my sidebar, and posted on the wall above my desk, is one of my favourites. It’s taken from a webpage by Canadian sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer, his version of Robert A. Heinlein’s five rules. He closes with: "Because if you have at least a modicum of talent and if you live by these six rules, you will make it." I heard Sawyer speak at a writing convention a couple of years ago where he presented the five rules, which to that point I hadn’t heard before. I learned some other stuff while there but it was Sawyer’s presentation that really stuck with me; it was that pivotal moment where I realized yes, I can make this happen. I just need to work hard and persevere.
A while ago I got a trading-card type thing out of a Dempster’s bread bag. It was part of a set that shared quotes from hockey player (and, of anecdotal interest, fellow Ontarian) Sidney Crosby. And I saved it, because something he said resonated with me: "…if you want to make [it], you have to have that passion to be better and to learn. You have to put in time, but you shouldn’t look at it as putting in time. It should be a matter of doing something you want to do." It related to what Sawyer was saying – it may not happen immediately, but if you work hard and persevere, it will happen – but added an extra component: do what you love. If it makes you happy, it won’t feel like work.
Yesterday I was in the hairdresser’s and noticed they had a banner hanging on the wall with a quote on it. It was attributed to Buddha there, though in looking it up online I’ve also seen it credited to Albert Schweitzer: "Success in not the key to happiness; happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful."
Because if you love what you’re doing, you’re not doing it just for the destination, you’re doing it for the trip there, too. Some lucky folks are headed for the city and can take the fast four-lane highways, but for those of us with destinations off the main roads the navigation isn’t so easy. There will be twists and potholes and T-intersections, flooded crossings and downed trees and detours. If it’s all about the destination, perhaps at some point you’ll reach a washout and decide to turn around and pick a different town to go to. But if you’re enjoying the trip for its own sake, for the time spent in that car, admiring the scenery, you’re more likely to press on. And as a result, you’ll probably reach that destination, sooner or later. Perhaps the road you had to take to get there was rough, but it was also beautiful.
So many of the success stories I read about famous people, from Steve Jobs to JK Rowling, have similar plots: an average background and childhood, a passion, a road with many hardships and obstacles, belief in themself, perseverance, a little bit of luck, and ultimately success. I love these stories as motivation, too. They say to me: You’re not alone. Others have gone before you; you can too. Work hard. Persevere. Love what you do. Believe.