Hello, dear readers, and welcome!
Today, NaNoWriMo asked for help in inspiring the writers of tomorrow (and yay for NaNo 2014 and beyond!), so here I am to give some advice and inspiration! Wherever you are in the time-stream, I hope that this post makes you smile, and makes you want to write!
So, here we go!
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To A Future Writer: The Importance Of Being You
Hello, dear, future writer – this post is for you, and for me, and for everyone who is already writing; this post is for all of the creative people who will be, who are, and who strive to be. Here I will attempt to impart the most important of the wisdom that I have gleaned from years of writing and publishing, from years of trying to figure out the best method for being me--
Yes, that’s what this post is about, and that’s where I’ll start, directly at the heart. What’s the most important thing to learn, to remember, about writing?
These two all-too-often forgotten words: be yourself.
You can study every writing book, every grammar book, dissect every bestseller to try and find what made it a hit – you can take every bit of advice to heart, stroll down every publishing avenue, attempt every “golden rule”...but when it comes right down to it, the only thing that makes you valuable as writer is being yourself.
Anyone can be someone else – but no one can be you. No one writes quite like you, no one plots quite like you, no one has your exact same interests or ideas; you are unique, and so can your writing be.
Never lose sight of the fact that the most important tool you have in writing is yourself, and being yourself. Writing is a journey, and we each get better as we go along, so revel in all aspects of your – yes, your – creative journey: from copying the greats, to creating your first full-length novel; from writing the worst piece of fiction in the history of the world, to writing the best things you will ever pen; from finishing that first story, to finishing your last.
Everything you do is part of you; so don’t allow self-doubt, and that badly popular thinking often described as “everything I do sucks”, to enter in through your door. Not every painting is a masterpiece, and neither is every story, but these “failures” are each a step in your journey, and you should be proud of them – many books on the bestsellers list are forgotten with time, so don’t worry about being “as good as them”; be your best, your personal best, and then keep growing to become even better, to get one step closer to the best you can be.
I used to have binders and binders full of notebook paper, which I scribbled stories upon in my youngest days, when I was a fresh writer, when I was wasn’t as “good” as I am now. They were flawed, and far from perfect, but they were also part of me and my journey, and that made them beautiful – I realize that now. I came to a point in my journey where I thought that they were trash – drafts I would not be keeping, stories I didn’t want to see the light of day – and so I treated them as such, and threw them away, and now I regret it. This taught me the lesson: everything is important, and those “mistakes”, those pages that weren’t “good enough”, those hours of work and thought and words made you into the writer you are today--
So, dear scribe, take a moment now to imagine the writer you will become, just by penning another few words, by taking another step forward in your journey. The journey truly is better than the destination, so enjoy it, and keep the bits that made you into you close by, to remind you that every journey is beautiful when the path becomes rocky.
Be true to yourself, writer. Don’t try to be anybody else, to write the story that you think others would want to read – write the story that you want to read, the story that wants to be told, the story that keeps you up in the middle of the night, the story that still lives when you turn out the lights. Don’t write for readers, or publishers, or the market, or your friends – write for you, and be true to your vision.
Be the best you that you can be, the best writer that you can be, and improve. Hone your skills, try new things, take note of grammar, learn what you need to learn, but don’t lose sight of the spark inside that is yours, and yours alone, your own, personal light.
Don’t be afraid to take chances, to write those words that might not make sense right now, but that may change everything later on. Don’t be afraid to run with the idea that others might deem unworthy of words, to at least give it a try. Don’t be afraid to set stories aside, and start anew – and on the opposite end, don’t be afraid to finish, for a new story is always ready to begin, and even if its not, you were true to the part of you that wanted to write. Don’t be afraid to try new methods, to find out what works for you, to take up your pen (or laptop) if the place you’re at isn’t working for you, and move on.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself.
Dearest writer – do not be afraid.
What does it mean to be creative?
I'm sure if you ask, you would get a different answer every time. This, I believe, simply lends to the fact that we are all creatively different, and that we all have new things to bring to the creative world -- which, as I try to often say, is a good thing.
But if we take this question, and delve deeper into it, it can lead to the related question: how can we be creative?
For this, too, everyone seems to have different answers, but recently in my creative studies (which consist of reading journals, articles, and books by other creatives that I admire), I have begun to notice a theme:
10,000 hours of practice.
Something a lot of us don't want to spend: time.
In the book Brain Storm, by Don Hahn, the author mentions how Malcolm Gladwell suggests in his book, Outliers (wow, two books to read in the same sentence!), that 10,000 hours are required to become a master -- in anything. Is it surprising that this doesn't seem to be a popular opinion in our fast-paced age? Most articles instead seem to read "How to be creative in 10 easy steps", in which those other three zeroes that make up 10,000 are thrown out and forgotten.
Why are we so daunted by the idea of spending time -- and not just a few hours, but time -- on perfecting our work, on becoming better at it? And more than that, why do we feel like we waste time when we don't get things done quickly, when we have to set aside that painting, or that written page, or that idea, because it simply isn't good enough; why do we feel like failures if everything is not right the first time?
As always, my favorite author, Madeleine L'Engle, has something good to say in her journal (A Circle Of Quiet), these words born after the rejection of her most famous book, A Wrinkle In Time: "Does it really matter if we are geniuses or second-rate"?
Can you be a master of your craft, after 10,000 hours, and not be a genius?
I don't suppose it's up to us to decide whether or not we are geniuses, because that doesn't really matter, in the end, and everyone will view you differently, anyway (there are people who think my favorite authors -- I will use J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, as an example -- were not geniuses, and I will heartily disagree with them). What matters most, or at all, is the work, and how much you put into it. What matters is doing it with passion.
Don Hahn also wrote, concerning music lessons he took, where he had to practice, practice, practice, that: "My lessons taught me two important nonmusical facts: art comes after an incredible load of work, and only one thing will see you through that work -- passion."
Our lives are busy, certainly. We have to try and juggle school, relationships, kids, work, and on top of that most of the time, creative work besides. It is difficult to put in those 10,000 hours, or even two hours. It is difficult to think that we should be focusing on becoming better, no matter the time, no matter the effort (and there is effort, so much effort), instead of thinking about those ten easy steps that can really be more hindering than helpful.
But then, it's much easier to think about staying in bed than it is to think about getting up and facing the day, isn't it?
If we want to become all that we can be in our crafts, in our creativity, we are going to have to work hard, because working is the only way to accomplish things. We have to go through the fire before we are tempered; we have to move our arms and legs before we can swim. Passion is what drives you forward, what you cling to when things seem too hard, or like they are taking too long, but work is what gets things done.
In Austin Kleon's book, Show Your Work, he writes: "The writing community is full of lame-o people who want to be published in journals even though they don't read the magazines they want to be published in," says writer Dan Chaon. "These people deserve the rejections that they will undoubtably receive, and no one should feel sorry for them when they cry about how they can't get anyone to accept their storers."
Writing is work -- and yes, you should show it; it's fun, if nothing else -- and part of that work, as stated above, is reading. Part of that work is researching. Part of any work is learning about your craft -- how it began, who the pioneers were, what they studied, what they said, different methods and techniques, modern examples. Part of being creative is taking the initiative to learn more about creativity, especially from those who came before you, who had unique views, just as you do.
Take time in your work -- time to create, time to be inspired, time to listen to what your work is saying, time to listen to others...time to do your best, to work hard, even if you don't feel like it, or are frustrated when you have to set that work aside. Work adds up, and we learn something from everything that we do, whether we release the finished product or not.
In 2012, I had an idea, and in 2013, I implemented it. It was at a time in my publishing career where I was trying to make things work, to "be successful" (which, I can assure you, is never a good pursuit, at least when you're worried about numbers and revenue). It was a great idea, I felt -- release a short bit of a book, and have readers vote for what happens next -- and at first I was really enjoying working on it. The problem was, at that time I hadn't yet learned how I work best, my own, personal way of writing and creating, and so I didn't really know that I was basically shooting myself in the foot by trying to use the methods of others to be successful. Over time, it became much too much for me, and I had to throw the projects aside -- and I felt awful for it, like I had failed, when really, all I was doing was learning more about myself, about writing, and about creativity. Even if I never touch that story -- which I had spent years writing the full of back in the mid 2000s, and time re-writing in 2012 and 2013 -- again, I have learned something from it that I could not have learned otherwise; I am adding it to my 10,000 hours towards mastery. If I had not spent the time on that "failure" of an idea, if I had not gone through the frustration of trying to make it work, and seeing why it didn't, then I would not know what I do know now.
Do your best. Do your work. If you cut corners, it will always show -- and even if it, by some miracle, doesn't show to others, you will always know, and nothing is worth knowing that you didn't do your absolute best.
Don't be daunted by those 10,000 hours, and don't be daunted by the idea of hard work. Don't be afraid to try new things, and even if they "fail", celebrate your failure, because you have learned something new, and that knowledge will keep moving you forward.
Also posted on:
CrimsonSterling.com and my Patreon page -- please consider becoming a Patron to support my creative work, and helpful posts like this!
Hello, Allegiants! This is my first official post, after updating my website, and I'm very excited!
I have an archive of poetry I have written over the years, and here is a poem I would like to share with you today. Please enjoy. :)
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Things we think are not
Things we see.
Time will tell
Of the bigger things.
Also posted at: CrimsonSterling.com and the Patreon feed.
Welcome to my blog! Here you will find writing tips, inspiration, and more. I post whenever the fancy strikes.