I was probably eleven or twelve when I first picked up James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small. To this day, it remains one of my all-time favorite go-to books for a good laugh. Herriot has a gift for impeccable depictions of idiosyncrasy, and his books neatly temper the absurd and hilarious with the somber and uplifting.
A few months ago, I discovered that Herriot’s son had written a biography of his father, and I had to read it. And I only love the man more.
Toward the end of the book, Wight covered his father’s first ventures into the world of writing, which started out as a sort of journal of all the wonderfully, lovably eccentric people he worked with as a country vet in the 1930s and ’40s. His family persuaded him to send the manuscript to a couple of publishers, who, though they spoke highly of his writing, eventually rejected it.
Wight then remarks,
“He still felt proud of what he had done. Quite apart from having written a book that could be passed down through generations of his family, he had had the satisfaction of having his work genuinely praised by John Morrison and Juliana Wadham, two highly-experienced readers who had no reason to enthuse over his little book other than that they thought it had real potential.” (Jim Wight, The Real James Herriot, 245)
Wouldn’t it be grand to have that kind of satisfaction in our own writing? It’s so easy to get caught up in the world of bestseller lists and Amazon ratings and contracts and movie deals. But in the end, no matter what happens with it, you’ve written a book. Or a short story, or novella, or poem. Whatever your thing is. The point is, the very act of creating something beautiful is worth taking pride in.
So next time you doubt your ability to be an author because you’re afraid other people won’t like it–square your shoulders and write on! Know that you are going where others fear to tread, and just getting that book out from beginning to end will earn you the right to praise and admiration. It’s not an easy thing, this writing stuff; but in the end, it certainly does have its rewards.