I saw a clip of writer Robert Greene talking about creative work that really rang true:
“You have to really love your idea. It has to be something from deep within. It has to be personal. It has to excite you on a deep level. Because you’re going to have to persevere for several years. There are going to be a lot of critics, a lot of mean-spirited people are gonna say, ‘You can never do that!’
When you create anything, the spirit you create it with, the energy, the excitement, is translated into the product itself. So when somebody writes a book just for money, you can kind of smell it. When you read the book, it kind of reeks. We can sense that. But when the writer is excited, it excites the reader. So the love and the desire you put into your project will translate.”
3 additional thoughts on this:
1) I would worry less about mean-spirited people, and worry more about well-intentioned people. The mean-spirited you can ignore pretty easily, but the well-intentioned can actually do much more damage, because you really care what they have to say. This includes agents, editors, friends, colleagues, loved ones, etc.
2) Not only will you have to persevere for many years, if your wildest dreams come true and your project is a huge hit, you have to be ready to talk for years — if not decades! — about it. So at the very least, it better be something you were passionate about at the time of its making.
3) I truly believe that great books are sort of crystallizations of the energy of writer at a certain moment in time and magic happens when the reader’s energy and the writer’s energy sort of unlock each other. (I wrote a little more bit about this in the afterword to Steal — you put all the energy in as the writer, but it’s really the reader’s energy that completes the circuit.)