Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Those who can afford it least

I live in the desert.

As such, water is a precious commodity. Right?
broken sprinkler this morning

You'd think they would carefully guard all of their water lines. No sprinkler would remain busted, etc. etc.
same busted sprinkler last week

In fact you'd think that in a place where it rains less than ten inches in a year, they'd be awfully miffed about water loss.
same sprinkler busted three weeks ago

And yet, here in Albuquerque, there's a broken sprinkler head I pass on my way to work practically every day. 

 Writers are like this too. Well, to be fair everyone is, but in general, those who can least afford to do so are always the ones doing it. It's like those PayDay loans at 30%, cause that'll help someone out financially. And yet they are everywhere. I never see rich people using those...

Writers go through a long period of time finding their voice and making their craft work. It's one of the hardest times in a writers life (oh wait. Nope, it's ALL HARD) because they are so riddled with insecurity. It's similar to being a teenager again. Am I any good? Will anyone ever love me/my work?

The problem with this attitude is that no one gives out acknowledgement in the early days. If you're writing and you're looking for outside validation, it's a long ways off. What writers need to be doing in the early days is fearlessly writing and experimenting; exploring the ways words can be tied to together to find that magical place where their voice shines through the muck of homonym failure.

But most early writers stick to the tried and true. They write stories that are common. We say our stories are different, but trust me, there really are only seven plots. Once you know them, everything else is just a twist. So yes, your early stories are not as unique as you want.

But in the early days, you are more afraid. You follow rules and you hunt down advice from all the experts. I hate to say it, but there's a tiny percent of people who are talented enough to really write well straight out of the gates (and often they've had a lot of other writing training that they just didn't recognize) so a lot of us spend a lot of time turning our wheels in the place where we aren't that good but we want to be awesome.

We usually dream about publishing and agents and contracts, and--I know telling people not to do it is ridiculous, but the craft of writing is only learned through excruciating trial and error. And until you've experimented--say eff-you to publishing and write the book you NEED--you'll never find your voice. There's a reason it takes years to hone craft and learn to write. It's because it's hard. But it takes longer if you only go the safe route, telling the safe stories.

You need to fly. But until you jump off the cliff, how do you know if you'll fly or fall?

Failure is part of the game. Hey, I have failed books, ideas that crashed and burned. I have a trunk of fan fic that will NEVER see the light of day. I have poems and blog posts, song lyrics, novels, novellas, short stories, you name it. And I have flash fiction for contests and fun.  I've written stories in 35 words because that was the challenge.

In short, write everything. You wouldn't go to a store and try on the first dress you saw for prom? What if it didn't fit right? or clashed with your skin? What if it poked you in all the wrong places? Or you were allergic to the fabric (this is starting to be a real problem for me, as it turns out)?

So go out into the world and write everything. You have no time to hesitate about the what and the who. You cannot afford to be paralyzed by fear. I get it, fear is hard to conquer (I'm a coward, FYI). There are no fearless people, but there are people who can swallow their fear and jump despite the shaking knees. 

They Fly.


  1. I look back at my first book and while I still kind of love it, it is really, really not unique enough. (It's about a ten-year-old girl and fairies. Yeah.) It does take a lot of time. The ones that make it are the ones who keep going. :)

  2. You totally have to take a risk. =) Love it! I've got two fan fiction books I wrote when I was a kid, and we shall never speak of them again--but they did pave the way for the serious stuff, and in that regard they were invaluable.

  3. A year or so ago i broke out all my fanfic that i wrote in high school and read it all. It took a long time. And it was horrible (so many single tears cried). But by the end it was awesome, too, because it brought back all that excitement and emotions i experienced the first time around.
    Also, what was weird was, there was this one character no one really liked to write about, but when i went back and read the stories, he was the BEST character! He was more developed (no Mary Sue qualites) and a really great character. It's like my subconcious took over or something.

  4. Practice makes perfect still hold true, right? The only way to learn and grow is to do it. Just like anything worth will take work!

  5. So true! I really believe one has to stand out and be different or do different to make it last in the literary world.

  6. Love the flying metaphor - I've read other versions of it in other places, and always rings ridiculously true. I just have to keep reminding myself of it.

    The weird thing for me is that I've done a lot of what you're talking about, experimental writing and stuff where I didn't care if it was publishable, because I was posting it online. And you're right, it's amazing how much that helps. The hard part (okay, one of the many hard parts) is finding a way to keep that when writing something you hope will be publish-worthy. It's been years and I still haven't figured it out. @_@

  7. The first novel I submitted was pretty unique, I just didn't have the skill to pull it off. I might be able to revisit it at some point, or it might just languish as the novel that never was.

    (PS I bought the first wedding dress I tried on. I tried on a second, and then went back to the first... I just thought that fitted in the the prom analogy :-) )

  8. It's very hard to put yourself out there and believe in your work when, usually, all you get is a lot of rejection. The people who want it bad enough stick with it.

  9. This is such a great analogy! And its so true. My first three manuscripts were no where close to good enough, but each one got better and eventually my work was accepted by others. Great post Rena!


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