The Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom is a must-watch for every struggling writer. I promise you will be inspired.
The first time I watched it, I nodded my head, said a few amens, and felt understood as an artist who doesn’t always feel like a success. Watching talented background singers walk such a similar journey as mine gave me hope. I am not alone in this artistic/fame/success/money struggle, and neither are you.
Then I watched the documentary a second time. And I feverishly wrote down quotes. Because these quotes are gold. Not only for every writer out there discouraged that your art is being ignored or marginalized, but for every Creative out there in a similar battle.
Thirteen Quotes that May Change the Way You View Your Writing Career:
- “God gave me this talent, and I intend to use it.” Darlene Love
This is exactly how you may feel. And when you become disillusioned or discouraged by the publishing industry, you have to go back to this truth. God has equipped you. He has given you this gift. To use it to the utmost is to honor Him.
- “I felt like if I just gave my heart to what I was doing, I would automatically be a star.” Merry Clayton
As an author, I have felt this way on my decades-long journey. It’s fickle, this industry. Even if you give it your all, there are no guarantees of success. All artists have to go through this frustration. And there will be people who work less, or get a lucky break, or make more money or experience more fame than you. The comparison game will kill you every time.
- “The kind of feeling that you get from people screaming in the audience . . . if you’re always looking for that in life, you’re going to crash.” Background singer
Fame like that is fleeting. And it’s not real. And it really has nothing to do with your talent or guts or tenacity. If you’re in the writing industry to fill a hole in your heart, you will walk away wounded.
- “It never is a level playing field. It’s not about fairness. It’s really not about talent. It’s circumstance. It’s luck. It’s destiny. But the best people deal with that.” Sting
You must settle that in your mind. Sometimes people work very hard and don’t “make it.” Sometimes people don’t try at all and have things handed to them. It’s terribly arbitrary and fickle. The best way to weather this is to learn contentment and practice gratitude.
- “There’s this idea that you can go on American Idol and suddenly become a star, but you may bypass the spiritual work you have to do to get there. And if you bypass that, then your success will be wafer-thin.” Sting
There have been many flash-in-the-pans who sizzle, then fizzle and die for this very reason. They didn’t have that long period of 10,000 hours of disciplined work. They didn’t have to struggle in their craft. They had fame thrust on them without the foundation of hard work underneath it.
- “We need to know our worth.” Dr. Mable Brown
We do. This is the author’s single most worrisome problem. Your worth is not tied to your words, productivity, doing “everything right” for a publisher, success, and financial statements. Your worth is tied to being an image bearer. That should be enough.
- “Seemingly any time I would be getting ready to be doing something really, really big, or something really wonderful, something would just happen that would just knock me to my knees. God, what is this? Am I not supposed to be doing this? If I’m not supposed to be doing this, then show me I’m not supposed to be doing this, and I won’t do it. I never was shown. And I just stay cool, stay humble and stay beautiful to do the work.” Merry Clayton
Have you been there? Have you wept after dark rejections? Have you asked God why in the world would He call you to such a journey where you’re constantly rejected? Or why would you get “so close” and a break would nearly come, only to fall by the wayside? Or others seem to have success easily, and you have to grit and grunt your way to make a living. I hope we’re all like Merry, staying cool, staying humble, and staying beautiful. Keep doing the work.
- “It’s more than just leaning on your talent. You must be disciplined. You must get up in the morning. You gotta do it.” Tata Vega
BOC. Put your behind on the office chair. Set word count goals. Consistently write. Be disciplined in your social media platforms. Exercise your writing muscle consistently. View your career as a platform to constantly improve. Make it a goal to have each subsequent book to be better than the one before. Desire to grow, work hard, and continue to practice discipline in the craft.
- “But you know at the end of the day, it’s up to you to perfect the gift you’ve been given. Put your spirit into that song.” Stevie Wonder
This deals in voicing. There is only one you. You will be violating your voice if you try to imitate others. You bring your glorious self to the page. Be unabashedly you.
- “It’s been a regret that I just didn’t hang in there.” Claudia
This is from a background singer who ended up becoming a Spanish teacher. And honestly, this is haunting. The pressure to make a living, the desire to be recognized financially for all the hard work you’ve done, is huge. How many times have you considered dropping out of this pursuit to get a “real job”?
- “As a young person, you thought everyone could sing. Then you got older and you realized everyone is not a singer. These are gifts. And you have to share and go out into the world.” Background Singer
Maybe you didn’t always “own” your talent. Maybe you figured everyone could write, that words came easily to all. But this ability to string thoughts together is a gift. Be grateful for the gift. It’s part of your stewardship jouirney to sink into that gift and wear it proudly.
- “There’s a spiritual component to what (real musicians) do. It’s got nothing to do with worldly success. The music is more an inner journey. Any other success is just cream on the cake.” Sting
The main satisfaction from creating something cannot be success. It must be something else—the joy that comes from a beautiful turn of phrase, the email from someone who was touched by your words, the satisfaction that arises from simply doing what you were created to do.
- “You gotta step out there and do your thing.” Stevie Wonder
This is your thing, writing. Step out into it. Be naked on the page. Be vulnerable, taking riskier risks. Know that this is what you’re called to do.
Which quote resonates most with you today? Why?