Need (Gumption)

I have recently discovered Kevin Spacey’s House of Cards, and found myself watching two to three episodes at a time before bed. Quite a different approach to TV.

It occurred to me this morning what this series uses as a structural source, and I should not be amazed given Spacey’s history. It’s really quite a fun ride, and the fact it focuses on Washington politics with nodding winks to every social issue in the news, clearly puts it in the same realm as any of William Shakespeare’s tragedies involving kings and power.

At first, Spacey addressing the camera was of-putting and troubling. Some of the earliest camera speeches made him feel too Snidely-Whiplash evil, sneeringly evil for evil’s sake. But in the back of my mind, I liked it. images-2Then, it suddenly hit me, these are stage monologues! The main character speaks to us disarmingly, sometimes confirming his disingenuous actions, and highlighting his unreliability, or his truth. It’s as topical as Hamlet or Macbeth!

Spacey is a talented man of the theater who has worked for the British National Theater and has brought that live theater experience to film, and television. I enjoy and look forward to those monologues now, especially the set up of each, for they are all different!

The Writer...
The Writer…

My second reason for discussing House of Cards has to do with the writer’s plight, a topic of some importance for any unpublished writer – and that would be yours truly. Ideas and experience are never enough. We hear so many self-help writing gurus speak of needing to start at an early age and write continuously about what you know. We also hear or read of the advice that the successful writer must read constantly. One piece of advice many do not offer as loudly as the aforementioned is grammar. Without a fundamentally sound understanding and practice of English grammar, writing will always be a dream, and never a reality- the gatekeepers demand it, and so do you! (how many rambling Facebook posts have you thought interesting only to find the writing disintegrate into babble?) I know also that without a voice one shall have a hard time presenting something different to the potential readers. Voice is a matter between you and yourself, there are no special deals on voice anywhere on the internet or in a bookstore. I understand these other points entirely and agree with most in principle.

imagesHouse of Cards has opened my eyes to yet another oft mentioned but little appreciated skill or talent required for the successful writer, and that is: Need, or  I like the sound of Gumption. It starts in the gut!

You have to want it – writing that is. But, what does that mean exactly? There are a lot of things I really want; I mean, really, really, really want, and I can profess those wants eloquently and at great length. Not all wants are created equal. That became abundantly clear for me while watching Spacey – who is unrelenting in his pursuit of power.

The behind the scenes peak into the world of Washington government and politics reveals a world where wants never sleep. How many scenes are there suggesting that people go for days without sleep because things need to happen. Sure, there are scenes where Frank Underwood delegates work to underlings, who work all night, while he runs off for bed time with Zoe. Still there are plenty of scenes where he works all night, or the President works all night with staff because they need to do so. Work and responsibility demand their continuous work.

weightIf I’m being honest, I must say writing has never demanded that level of attention from me. True for you also? I have friends who like my ideas and thoughts, but I am as yet an unpublished author and quite likely to remain so unless I change my… gumption.

That is not to say my work has not demanded similar commitment from me, to which I enthusiastically responded. I have been paid to do a job and I have responded with a what-ever-it-takes approach to the work. I cannot accuse myself of being lazy, since my work has demonstrated quite the opposite.

Unless you are being paid to write and have that tangible responsibility to motivate your actions, its easy to demur, it’s easy for life to get in the way, it’s easy for the tomorrow’s-another-day sentiment to get a death grip. Tomorrow is not another day, if you have wasted today! Success builds upon success, when you understand failure (experiencing failure is underrated unless you understand failure – Aye, there’s the rub!)

You may have the want to write. The better question is do you have the the right want? Gumption? Going without sleep until your project and work are done is not a recommended health practice. We can learn, however, our level of want. If that want does not approach the inescapable, obsessive, compulsive, drive, or gumption – like the word because it appeals to the gut sound – you will never write professionally. I am now convinced.

Nobody will pay you to write until you prove you can write. Writing is not a job with a training period, or a draw against commission. The time of advances for promising writers has long since evaporated. One must spring full-bodied upon the stage with a stunning entrance and voice. The din of writing wannabes is enormous.

All the other admonitions about a writing career are just as true; but, gumption is the intangible element that can make up for lack of depth in experience, reading, or writing: It’s that 10,000 hours to mastery concept in fine print!

I would appreciate any comments about this post and need or gumption as a primal mover in the writing world…

And on to another installment of House of Cards for inspiration – tireless dedication to a purpose.

Harter here! Enjoy!

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