Being Good Enough: Making it as a Storyteller
I often see many storytellers, no matter their medium, age, gender or race repeat the same words back to themselves.
“What if I’m not good enough?”
To which I have to respond, “But what if you are?”
It’s an insecurity that has killed many a young storyteller, whether they’re writers, artists, musicians or filmmakers. It’s an insecurity that I once shared as well. (Although that was a long time before some serious life experiences taught me that holding such views was practically suicide in the more literal sense of the term.)
The truth is that most of us aren’t good enough. But then, neither were the greatest storytellers in both historic and contemporary times. JK Rowling certainly wasn’t good enough, and yet Harry Potter has touched the lives of untold millions. Quotes and references from the series can be seen everywhere from House M.D. and invoked as the devil by leaders of major world religions.
Stephen King clearly wasn’t good enough. For years he submitted his work and got nothing but rejection letters, if even then. He eventually found out he’d been published via telegram because he couldn’t afford to keep his phone connected. Today, close to seventy film adaptations of his novels and short stories exist, many of them award-winning.
The world is ripe with tales of world-renowned musicians living out of their vans prior to being “discovered.” Painters and artists would sleep rough on the streets that now have multi-million dollar price tags on their work, actors that were unemployed day-dreamers got their names cemented onto Hollywood Boulevard, and writers who’ve never even been so privileged as to receive a rejection letter later become household names.
And the truth is that none of them were good enough.
But someone, somewhere along the line disagreed. Someone saw the charm of the Harry Potter novels. Someone else recognized that the way Stephen King wrote creeped them out. Others recognized a hidden talent for within a young carpenter named Harrison Ford. Others still put themselves out there, showing others what they could do.
In all of these situations, it didn’t matter whether the subject thought they were good enough. Some believed it, some didn’t. But in all of these cases, someone thought they did. In storytelling, it’s not us who decides we’re good enough. It’s others.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t an element within our control. After all, we need to show our work before we can ever hope to be recognized. And we need to build upon what we have. Sometimes it takes months. More often it will take years or decades. But the important thing for us to keep in mind is to never give up.
Actor Peter Dinklage made a speech at Bennington College back in 2012. In it, he told the story of what he not only overcame to get to where he is, but he walks us right through the choices he made to get there. Give it a watch, and leave a comment below to let us know where in the journey you are.