“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Powerful, blood-pumping words! Teddy reminds us that being in the arena is what counts — striving, taking action. pushing past our limits, falling and rising again and again.
Our arena isn’t one with cheering crowds and bright lights; it’s not the place where the mighty meet to test their wills and skills. Our arena is a silent place — the page — where we strive to fashion words into worlds and bring forgotten ideas and timeless characters to life. Our arena isn’t a place of brash action and yet it summons us to boldness — to write dangerously. To tell the truth as we see it and feel it. To give our readers refuge — places where they can escape for a while and dream and envision new worlds and new ways of being. To share what we know now that we didn’t know before.
Sometime soon, I don’t know when — we are all going to be challenged. We are going to be mired in a rough patch in our writing and feel we’ve lost our way. We are going to feel betrayed by characters we’ve created who refuses to behave the way we expect them to. We are going to find ourselves running out of gas before we get to the end of a draft. We are going to find ourselves facing rejection once again.
And when this happens — and it will, let’s remember Teddy’s words and fight through it, knowing that “there is no effort without error and shortcoming” and that as long as we know “great enthusiasms, the great devotions,” we are exactly where we are meant to be and doing exactly what we are meant to do. And then let’s all write on.