Some people like "How To" books. They buy "How to be a better ____" books over and over again when to me they so often repeat the same information or contradict one another. Sometimes they read like the person read the other book and decided to do his best "this isn't really plagiarism" impersonation. Needless to say, I had a few bad experiences with such books early on and have for the most part given up on them. (I follow Donald Maass on Twitter, where he posts insightful tweets to make a person a better author, which I find to be an adequate middle ground.)
Then there are magicians. I never wanted to be a magician, but who doesn't love a good magic trick? I grew up during Penn and Teller's rise to fame, which means I hit the tail end of quality magic. More popular magicians who got on TV for not eating were stupid and ruined the profession for people with genuine talent. Give me Ricky Jay any day of the week rather than some asshole in tight pants dancing around a stage hyping up something that doesn't offer a beginning much less an ending.
So, with my curmudgeonly devotion to older magic, I've never heard of Brian Brushwood. I only know of him now because someone linked me to his blog on Google+. On his blog, he's posted a letter exchange with Teller (yes, the one that doesn't talk; that doesn't mean he can't write).
I offer you the entire post because the context makes Teller's words all the more powerful. His closing paragraphs are what got me. His talk about being something other than a magician. Over the years I've often met people who were truly gifted at something other than writing who so badly wanted to be a writer. It reminded me of how much I wanted to be a soldier when I'm very clearly not built for soldiering. Sometimes, when I'm down and worried that I won't ever cut it at being a writer (even though I've been writing longer than I've done anything else), I think, maybe I'm better at something else. Maybe I'm not supposed to be a writer. I'm supposed to be a ______, and I'm wasting all these years writing novels when I should be _____ing.
But Teller should have been something other than a magician, and it's that something that makes him so great at what he does. For the first time ever, that lingering insecurity feels like a blazing torch, I'm carrying to my own professional olympics. Holy shit, I should have been a _______ which is why I'm going to be such a great writer!!!
Thank you, Teller, for your wisdom. And thank you, Brian, for sharing.