I came across a remarkable video on facebook on Sunday.
The video is of an undiscovered, working man, singing a song he wrote. He’s wearing his work clothes and appears to be in a breakroom. He’s got a uniform on, complete with safety classes and nametag, and he’s clearly a little embarrassed at being filmed for presumably the first time.
His friend has likely put him up to recording the video and this same friend records him on a phone. It’s not professional. It’s not planned out. It shouldn’t be worth even noting.
And yet it’s remarkable. It’s intoxicating. It’s hypnotizing.
I probably watched it a dozen times before I decided to write the blogpost. The man’s voice, the love that pours out of every inch of him; it’s just magical.
Here’s the video, since I’ve talked about it enough. Watch it and then please continue reading, because I think I have something worth saying. (Or maybe I’m just another blowhard author who writes too many words in his emails and blogposts; there’s certainly a possibility of this!)
Pretty remarkable video, huh? The song is beautiful and his voice is studio quality, without question.
And don’t let the page views fool you. This video is rapidly approaching seven million views on Facebook.
Now, to the points I wanted to make.
First, I’m a little envious of the guy. He reminds me of me five years ago, back before I published my first book. Back then, writing was magical. It was something I felt compelled to do. Heck, I didn’t even really feel it was of my own doing. It was, shall I say, divine? A gift? Something I was called to do?
I still remember how excited I was. I told friends and family and anyone who’d listen that I was writing a book! Not just a book, but a full-length novel! One I’d been working on for twelve years!
Yes, twelve years! And this wasn’t even my first novel. I’d already paid my dues and co-written one with a buddy fifteen years earlier while in college, which had been rejected by publishers. And like all writers, even before my first book Sold Out hit the market, I’d started probably thirty different “books,” all of which sputtered out somewhere between page twenty and page one hundred.
Back then, as I creeped closer and closer to releasing Sold Out, I was yelling and bouncing around like a fool, as excited as a ten-year-old boy waiting on a new bike at Christmas.
I was breathless. I was going to accomplish something big. I was going to make millions.
I’m not even sure the guy above is at that stage yet. He’s even before that. He’s at that stage where some friends or family members are begging him to use his talent and release some music.
Sometimes, it can take years of this before you have the courage to finally be recorded (or in my case, begin submitting your book for publication, knowing you’re going to be on the receiving end of quite a few rejection letters, all of which are frankly devastating).
So, like I said, I’m a little envious of the guy. He’s just doing what he loves, what he was meant to do, and it’s incredible to see.
The second point I wanted to make is we all need to be that friend who recorded this video. If you know someone like him, encourage them. Ask about their latest work. Push them and make them uncomfortable, whether they’re an artist, a singer, a writer, a woodworker, a mechanic who dreams of owning their own shop, whatever.
Maybe you don’t have a gift. Or maybe your gift is still working its way to the surface. Or to your soul. I like to think we all have gifts, but if you haven’t realized yours yet, you can still help that friend or family member around you realize his or hers.
It’s so scary in the beginning and you need someone to believe in you. Trust me, you really do.
So if you know someone in the same place as this guy in the video, do your thing. Be that person they name when they’re on stage twenty years from now, receiving a reward for their work.
My final point is I think there are a lot of artists and business owners, such as myself, who took that plunge and rode the wave this guy will soon ride, but they’ve become burned out.
It’s exhilarating in the beginning. There’s such beautiful and wondrous joy at the start of your journey.
But you soon start hitting resistance. In the writing world, you’re told to not write just anything, but write something that fits in a specific genre and can be marketed better. In this guy’s case, he’ll probably soon be told there’s not much of a market for Christian rap. Either become a typical rapper or move into another form of music, such as country or rock.
In my case, I learned that readers really love series. So I devoted myself to writing three more books with my character Nick Woods in them.
I also found myself changing him. Instead of having Nick Woods the way I wanted him, I felt compelled to make him nicer and more watered down, so that his tough military edge wouldn’t be so repelling to many readers who had no idea how jarring many combat vets can be in real life.
I also soon started to doubt myself. With well over a thousand reviews and ratings on Amazon, Audible, Goodreads, and other outlets, I soon started to doubt my craft and see its shortcomings.
This can cause a new artist or business owner to stumble. (Ever heard of Yelp? Yikes.)
Not everyone is going to be nice and often hearing the truth can completely extinguish the gift you thought you had.
So, too, can crushing stress and exhausting workloads. That is also what happens to many new artists and business owners. They’re touring or writing or working almost 24/7 in their new shop and their joy for the work just burns out.
My love (writing) became a job after my books exploded. I quickly became a full-time writer and threw myself into it, but along the way, my love (writing) became work and something I had to do.
That’s why I had to go back to work after two years of being a full-time writer. I needed to not have to write a certain book or series within a certain amount of time. I needed writing to be my love again, not my job.
I need to sit down at the computer with the love you see on that man’s face above. That’s why I’m so fortunate to have a great day job that allows me to come home and write what I want to write at night.
Now, a few miles farther down the road than the guy above, I’m still trying to cultivate my dream. I’m still trying to stay true to my soul and write what I want to write, even if the market for such a thing isn’t what it could be.
I’ll be talking more about the book I’m nearly done with in the future, but for now, I wanted to say that if you’re in that burned out state I described, don’t give up. Don’t lose that hope you once had.
Forget all the pressures and deadlines and stress and just be the best at whatever it is you were born to do. Don’t listen too much to those who are pushing you one way or the other and stay true to your soul. But more than anything else, don’t ever lose the magic.
Keep dreaming. Keep fighting.
Stan R. Mitchell