When I was a child, I loved the book "The Little Engine That Could." When my mama would read it to me, I would say the words along with her. "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." The little engine faced her mountain with the knowledge that she must cross it to get the toys to the children on the other side of that mountain. She could have given up when the other engines told her that it was too hard, but instead she put her head down and started on the journey up the mountain. She could have given up when the other bigger engines laughed at her and told her that she couldn't do it, but she put her head down and continued on her journey up the mountain. She made it to the top of the mountain and back down the other side, and soon the toys were in the hands of the grateful children. She got to say "I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could."
I love that story. There are some moralistic bores that think this story is a metaphor for the American Dream. (They seem to think that the American Dream is a bad thing.)
Bah! I say.
I learned about life from "The Little Engine that Could."
It taught me about doing the right thing. If no one will do a job that needs to be done (such as getting the toys to the good little girls and boys on the other side of the mountain), then you should at least try. A valiant effort by a tiny engine is infinitely better than no effort at all by a large engine. As writers, this is simple application. Writers write. You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't write you will never get over your metaphorical mountain.
It taught me about facing down detractors and self-assurance. The other engines made fun of the little engine, but when it was time to do the job, the little engine had enough faith in herself to say "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." The little engine's self-worth came from inside her heart. This one is hard for me. I've faced people who've criticized my writing in a non-constructive way. They attacked my inner self and caused me to lose my faith in my ability to write. It took a year, but I started writing again. I regained faith in my abilities. Whenever I write today, I'm saying to myself "I think I can. I think I can. I think I can."
The last thing I learned from the little engine is the value of persistence. The little engine could have stopped halfway up the mountain and said "I'm too small. I can't pull this heavy load the rest of the way. I just can't." The little engine didn't do that. The little engine kept going until the job was complete. This is the one that I struggle with the most today. I have two unfinished writing projects sitting there staring at me and giving me the evil eye. Finish me. Finish me. Finish me. I'm hearing those words in my head and I know I must be persistent and finish the job.
With that last one in mind, I'm back working on TDC. I hope to finish it by mid-June and then I will be able to say "I thought I could. I thought I could. I thought I could."