I randomly ran across this article a while back – if you don’t want to read the full article, it’s mostly about how people don’t read enough, with a few choice words about crappy NaNoWriMo novels being submitted immediately upon being finished in December. I won’t go over the merits of editing here – that’s for another post on another day. Editing does however play into the larger problem – not sucking. Because let’s face it, I’ve been telling you all this time that you’re awesome… but I lied. Sort of.
Mostly I didn’t though. More to the point, everyone (aside from strange savants who are often utterly crippled in some other way) sucks when they start something. Athletes don’t come out of the womb sprinting, musicians don’t pick up guitars and spontaneously transform into Eddie Van Halen, and writers don’t become Hemingway after writing one story. Nevertheless, lots of people seem to think there’s an “easy” route into awesomeness – that they can skip the “I’m producing nothing but crap” period altogether.
Here’s the great part – you can stop sucking and BECOME awesome. In my opinion, everyone who’s really interested in being good at something needs three things :
1. Do a LOT of whatever it is you’re trying to do, even if you suck at it.
2. Observe / experience others who are magnificent at what you do. Wrap yourself around it and devour. that. shit. like a goddamn amoeba (because that’s sort of what you are)
3. Serious & constructive criticism and the ability to absorb and USE said criticism (i.e. edits).
Take football players for example. I kinda hate football, but I know that at least some of the professionals play a lot (and practice a lot), watch it a lot (including recordings of their opponents), and watch recordings of themselves. Likewise, a good writer should write a lot (NaNoWriMo is a good START but by no means an end), read an obscene amount (and in my opinion, different genres and reading levels too), and use criticism to EDIT (I’m always going on and on about the amazingness of my crit group). You can apply these to any art, most sports, and quite a few plain old jobs on the market today.
So here’s what separates the chaff from the gems – passion. Are you passionate enough to dedicate the time and work it’s gonna take to climb out of suckitude? I would argue that the above three things are the work you need to do ad infinitum, even if / when you “make it.” And you need to do ALL THREE – if you’re willing to write a lot and read a lot, but not take any criticism or make edits (ye olde “my work is PERFECT” mindset), you’re not passionate enough.
I probably pissed some folks off with that last sentence. Good. If you’re not interested in getting better, why did you start? Getting back to the article I posted a link to, the writer mentions doing a shitload of reading INSTEAD of NaNoWriMo. I want to one-up them : do both. Do it all. Set unrealistic goals and hurl yourself at your work. What’s the worst that can happen? “Oh no, now I have half a crappy novel and have read a bunch of books.” What a terrible fate.
I’ll come back to this next week (yeah right) for part 2, wherein I’ll address the first point : do a lot of whatever it is you do. Until then, enough of me, YOU NEED TO GET TO WORK.