I once took a theater class taught by an esteemed and successful actor. He was the kind of person who seemed more sparkle than man. That's one way of saying that he was dazzling. (He was short, stout, and even his wrinkles had wrinkles. And he was all the more dazzling for it.)
I will never forget the day he stood at the front of the class and asked, "What about you is going to make you an actor someday?" I was floored by the question. While I desperately willed the gears in my brain to work, another student piped up.
"Because I'm a good liar," the young would-be liar answered, with all the pomp and insecurity due him.
My professor, who was normally the very definition of composure, retorted, "No, sir! Acting is not lying. A good liar you may very well be, but you will never be an actor until you can learn to tell the truth." The class was stunned. Even the liar, who was usually full of bloated words and no substance, remained silent.
That lesson lodged itself deep within me. Years later, I learned about Immanuel Kant's philosophy of morality. It complements my professor's thinking perfectly. Kant said that the highest moral good is to carry out our actions for the sake of the things themselves. In layman's terms: Don't do things with ulterior motives, or you'll negate the very value you're pursuing.
Here, I will put my own spin on these philosophies: If you desire to be a writer of any kind, you must first learn to tell the truth.
And telling the truth starts with yourself.
You must hunt down the wild hare of your intentions before you write for public consumption. Otherwise, your work will lack direction and substance.
Truth has a ring to it. The closer you get to the truth, the more it will resonate in your bones. You can feel truth reverberating and echoing throughout your whole being. The truth will reorient you. Like a compass compelled to point northward, so will your words pursue the truth about the story you've been given.
The next time you sit down to write, I want you to ask yourself these questions:
What am I doing here? What qualifies me to take up words and wield them?
And most especially:
What about me is going to make me a writer someday?