A long time ago, several years before this blog came into being, there was a seminar/discussion about writing and publishing at the Downtown library. It was free and open to the public, and hosted by several editors from Writers Digest magazine.* I'd always wanted to write Fantasy and Science Fiction**, but at the same time I didn't want to put myself out on a limb and show up as the clueless noob among a bunch of aspiring --and much younger-- writers.
My wife effectively kicked me out the door, saying that "you might as well show up and listen, because that's what you're passionate about". So I took a short jaunt to the Main Library and sat somewhere in the back while the editors presented and took questions from the audience.
The area the seminar took place in had enough chairs to easily hold 100 people, but I'd say it was about 1/3 full with about 10-20 other library patrons wandering in and out, driven by curiosity to stand in the back and listen for 10 minutes or so. What also immediately stood out was that I was very much a minority, both in gender and age, and most everybody else was more ambitious about writing than I was. Selling to a publisher wasn't my primary goal, although that wouldn't hurt one bit; my desire was to actually write a story I was proud of.
I quickly discovered that I didn't have to talk --or worse, present a writing sample-- so I could just listen and absorb what everybody had to say.
And people certainly weren't shy about the craft of writing.
Several of the women there wanted to write and publish poetry, to which my initial thought was "good luck with that". It's not that I didn't think they weren't good enough to get published, it's that poetry is such a niche market that it'd be harder to break into than publishing in general. I silently wished them luck, because I felt they were certainly going to need it.
Others played it close to the vest, like I did, but they did ask about the publishing process. And still others were interested in finding an agent and how one went about doing that.
The editors were knowledgeable, but some things --like catching lightning in a bottle-- they couldn't answer. I mean, finding the next J.K. Rowling or Stephen King is as much a crap shoot as it is an educated guess.
But the reason why I bring this up is that one of the editors present, the Fiction Editor for the Writer's Market annual, has since gone on to have a successful writing career of her own. I was reminded of that when I saw an ad from our local independent bookstore about a Zoom interview of her in promotion of her latest novel. Sure, being in the writing industry gave her a leg up in figuring some things out, she still had to break through on her own. Plus, another local author is always a good thing for the local arts community in general.
One piece of advice she did give out to the aspiring writers that day has continued to stick with me: a writer has to write if they want to improve. You can't expect to show up, pound out a few lines, and expect to be hailed a genius.
For every Mozart or Prince, there are a ton of aspiring musicians who have to work their collective asses off just to be considered "average".
|Okay, I know it's not historically|
accurate, but while I admire Mozart
in Amadeus I appreciate Salieri's POV.
Don't approve of his actions, however.
And her words have rung true for me.
Over the years of PC's existence, I've learned a lot about how to write. Or re-write, to be honest. Taking a post and editing it before release is critical to my writing process, and one I had to accept before I could improve past a certain plateau. When I was in high school and college, I used to compose at the typewriter because I hated rewriting. That meant I'd sit there and plot out a paragraph or more ahead of time, working everything out in my head before I would type anything. Yes, I would agonize over every single word I wrote, because I didn't want to rewrite a single thing. It slowed my output down immensely, but (I thought) I didn't have to edit the result. The thing is, while I could pull that sort of feat off in high school and get good grades, in college that simply wasn't happening. My professors ate me alive until I admitted that I couldn't just create a "good enough" result one time through.
Nowadays, I can't just pound out some words and then hit "Publish". I know better. And even then, I still miss things afterward, which explains the "EtA:" on the bottom of a bunch of posts over the years.
This sort of approach --trying something, revising, and trying again-- is also important in gaming. I've been reminded of that in spades on our run through Naxxramas, where the raid team hits a wall, spends time examining data and revising the approach, and eventually finding something that works. Sure, there's a lot of strategies for raid bosses already published, but you still have to tweak it to match your particular raid team and their strengths/weaknesses. Even then, you're not guaranteed victory, only a shot at it.
But it's not only the approach, but the humility that this approach requires, is what makes or breaks a raid team. We're one of the few raid teams left on our server that is still pushing deep into Naxxramas that hasn't yet killed K'T, and what keeps us going is that we're mature enough to handle setbacks. That doesn't mean we don't get frustrated --oh boy, do we-- but what's important is to not let those frustrations overwhelm you.
|I don't drink Jack Daniels, but I still found this funny.|
*It's perhaps a little known item, but Writer's Digest is based out of Cincinnati, even though the parent company is located in New York City.
**I have a copy of Isaac Asimov's Asimov on Science Fiction, a collection of his essays on writing SF, around the house somewhere. I was also inspired by Stephen King's On Writing, which interweaves a bit of his own history of learning to write along with understanding the craft of writing. Both are interesting books, and I highly recommend taking the time to find and read them.