A young man dreamed of becoming a great poet. Day after day he put his pen to paper. Day after day he was unsatisfied with the results of his work.
The young man enrolled in a writing course at the local college. He asked the professor: “What must I do to become a great poet – to inspire an audience with the worlds I create?” The professor replied: To be a great poet, you must first have a pure heart. Write not for the people, but for yourself.”
The young man redoubled his efforts and plunged into months of self-reflection. He produced a stack of poems that satisfied him. He found a publisher, but his book sold poorly. The young man asked his agent: “What must I do to become a great poet – to transport my readers to worlds of color and beauty?” The agent replied: “You must fill every line with powerful emotions distilled from your life’s forgotten sorrows. Make your readers feel your pain and you will feel their love.”
The young man spent the next year reliving all the painful memories of his life. He pressed every love lost, promise broken, and injustice endured into a seething core of emotion deep in his soul. But still his poems lacked that mysterious quality which divides scribbles from poetic art.
One night, the discouraged young man walked into a bar during a poetry reading night. The poet on stage held the audience spellbound. The crowd hung silent on every dramatic pause and erupted into applause at the end of the reading. The young man went up to poet and asked: “What must I do to become a great poet – to capture my audience’s love as you have done?” The older man replied:
“From the bags under your eyes, I can tell you have studied. From the booze on your breath I can tell you have felt deeply. Only one thing you lack to become a great poet.”
The young man leaned forward. “Please, sir. Reveal your secret.”
“To become a great poet, you must find an audience that thinks you’re a great poet.”