Writer’s Shortcut: The One Question that Ensures Success

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In writing your story, you’ll come across so many distractions online, from self-publishing blogs to highly-rated writing courses, and 2-for-1 “essential” ebooks for writing with passion. But forget all that. All you need is what’s already inside you: that true passion you feel for your story. Passion is simply your greatest essential for starting a fire in someone else.

One of Sheri’s and my favorite stand-up comedians, Brian Regan has a bit where he jokes about an airline company that lost his luggage. When he went to the lost baggage counter, the employee says, “Don’t worry,” and reaches beneath the desk to pull out a little plastic case that reads “Essentials Kit.”

“Oh,” he says sarcastically. “So these are the essentials! I overpacked.”

Many writers I meet seem to have this similar dazed and confused look when they arrive at our appointment. I know they’re thinking, Did I bring everything I needed? 

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Just once I’d like to say, “So, did you bring your qualifications for speaking with me today?” Of course I would never do it!

You have to be careful teasing writers. We’re fragile as it is. Most of us just want to know if we’re doing it right.

And usually, we overpack.

What I really want is to hand them the Essentials Kit. Then they wouldn’t need to bother with all the how-tos and writing instruction and conferences and blogs. Whittling this writing thing down to the bare bones, the bottom-line basics, has been my quest ever since I struck out on my own. And now, one of the very few items in my kit is this question, the one I start an interview with:

“What’s your passion?”

Who doesn’t love talking about their passion? And reading about people’s passions can be just as fun. Take a subject you couldn’t care less about and if someone shares their passion for it, it can be endlessly fascinating.

Why?

Strangely, we’re attracted to what others are willing to suffer for.

I’m really asking, What are you willing to suffer for?

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Something in us knows that whatever we do, whether we pursue love or money or the 7th sword of Grindol or whatever, it’s going to require some suffering. Even if it’s only getting to sit at home and watch sports all day, we know this dream of ours is going to take some doing to make that happen.

As a counseling couple I love says, in life you choose your pain. It’s suffering either way.

So if we know this, how do we employ it?

Passion. It comes from the Latin verb patī meaning “to suffer.”

I can talk a good game, but for me, suffering is right up there with sales meetings. I know it teaches me, and God uses it and can redeem it. But only a fool wouldn’t take an easier way if it was offered. Right?

What makes someone choose the harder way? That’s the question.

And every reader is looking for one thing: Was it worth it? Did you get out of it what I want and need?

Writing and rewriting is signing up to suffer. People lose more than their luggage. They lose their shirts, their health, their sanity. Who wouldn’t want a shortcut?

If you want to succeed, you’ve got to find the one secret: you’ve got to be so passionate about what you’re sharing that you know it’s going to change readers’ lives.

I’ve been privileged to work with a few of these rare authors, and I’m always amazed at how light they travel. They’ve figured out the secret. Their “Essentials Kit” is tiny because they’ve reduced and refined to this one thing.

What it’s really all about.

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“What’s the one thing? Your finger?”

If you’re writing, learn this and you can save yourself much headache trying to pack in all the tools and tips and writing courses: continually reconnect with your passion at the core of your story. Remember all the love and excitement and drama you naturally feel for it, and the words that come out of you will convince me.

I’ll tell you what I’d say if I was sitting across from you, what I’m often reminding myself: Don’t worry, release all fear. This is your God-given gift for strong feeling. Use it. This suffering you endure is for your noblest cause. Turn up the passion.

That’s your freedom. You have complete permission now and forever to fan those flames, and never look back.

For when you do, you’ll be proving why our stories are worth suffering for.

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3 thoughts on “Writer’s Shortcut: The One Question that Ensures Success”

  1. jack palance! too much! he was/is/was intense. he must’ve been way passionate about acting. remind me to tell you what he said when i ran into him at the bozeman airport once. fitting! thank you for letting me off the hook for reading all the stuff that comes to my inbox about “how to write better’ and where to go to learn and what books to buy and links to click on. slowly i am learning the snare in all that. i wonder whose in back of THAT????? humph. i am free to stop walking that labyrinth and to WRITE instead. so i just will. you’ve inspired me to pay better attention.

  2. Ha! Should have known you’d have a story. He was the real deal. Never will forget him doing one-arm push-ups in a tux at the Oscars.

    Yes! You have the key to that writer’s prison–use it!

    Love ya, my friend.
    M

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