In Telling Lies for Fun and Profit, Lawrence Block retells an old story.
A young musician approached a world-renowned violinist. “Master,” the young man said, “I want to pursue a life in music. I know I play well, but I don’t know if I have the talent to become great. If you give me encouragement, I’ll devote my life to music.”
This article is an excerpt from QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, a sound, strategic plan for building your career as a full-time writer. Author Jim Denney has been a full-time, self-employed writer since 1989.
“Play,” said the master.
The young man poured his heart out through his violin and played every note flawlessly. Then he waited for the verdict from the lips of the master.
The master violinist shook his head. “No,” he said. “You lack the fire.”
The young violinist was shattered. He walked away, depressed and despondent. He set aside his violin and studied for a career in business.
Years passed. One day, he heard that the old violinist was in town to give a concert, so he went to the master’s hotel room to call on him. When the master answered the door, the businessman said, “Years ago, I played for you and asked if you thought I had talent.”
“I think I recall you,” the master said uncertainly.
“You said, ‘You lack the fire.’ I was bitterly disappointed, but I had to be realistic and accept your judgment. So I chose a career in the business world, and I’ve become very successful. But one question nags at me: How could you tell that I lacked the fire?”
“Oh, I can’t tell anything from hearing you play one time,” said the master. “Whenever a young musician plays for me, I say, ‘You lack the fire.’”
The businessman gasped with outrage. “How dare you!” he sputtered. “I played my heart out for you! I looked to you for encouragement, and you shattered my dreams! How could you do that to me?”
The master was unmoved. “I said you lacked the fire and I was right. No one could have kept you from your dreams—if you had the fire.”
Do you have the fire to be writer? If you lack the fire, nothing can help you. If the fire burns in you, nothing can stop you.
If you are a writer, you will write.