“Anyone knows an ant can’t—move a rubber tree plant…”
Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn
I think at some point in his or her life almost every writer has heard the voice of conventional wisdom proclaim loud and strong that they should come to their senses and give up that writing nonsense.
“It’s never going to amount to anything.”
“You’re just playing around at writing.” (It’s not like you’re a serious writer—they have talent.)
In my particular case, in the grand scheme of things, they’re right. This obsession with typing words onto pages amounts to very little. For at least a year after publishing my first book, I made enough every month to buy a cup of coffee—as long as it was a McDonald’s coffee and not Starbucks. I’ve been lucky or blessed depending on your point of view. I make more than that today. Not enough to live on, but I drink coffee every day.
If the goal had been money or fame, then my writing doesn’t amount to much. However, fame and fortune were not the goal then. They still are not the goal. If I thought I had talent, maybe I would aspire to such things. So, why do it?
The most immediate reason is that I write because it brings me joy. If reading is a portal to other worlds, writing is the power to command those worlds. That may sound a bit like a god complex, but that only lasts until your characters start dictating the story. I get a word from Ed Landry now and then to listen to Bob Dylan’s song Positively 4th Street (Look it up on YouTube.). I’ll listen and then, I know my worth.
You may be wondering what that has to do with ants and rubber plants. Well, ants are small, but they constantly work at whatever task they happen to be engaged in and they seem to never give up. Writers are like that—all the time tapping away and just ignoring the sane people telling them to stop.
Solomon said that in the industrious activity of ants there is wisdom to be gleaned. Besides being constant workers at their calling, ants are incredibly strong. They can lift and carry many times more than their body weight. I can’t tell you if ants don’t know or just don’t care that people say they can’t lift an entire plant.
With writers, we generally know we can’t write. At the same time, we don’t care who thinks we can or can’t. Writers are not insensitive to criticism. It is that the joy derived from writing outweighs the cost incurred by writing. It’s a combination of determination and high hopes that seems to work.
Just what makes that little old ant—think he’ll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant can’t—move a rubber tree plant
But he’s got high hopes, he’s got high hopes
He’s got high apple pie—in the sky hopes
So, any time you’re getting low—‘stead of letting go
Just remember that ant—oops there goes another rubber tree plant!