Last time, I did up a post about self-confidence. This is related, as many many many (many) writers have a problem with self-confidence. Many. Pretty much all, in fact.
I don't think I'm going to help that with this post. But I'm going to be honest here, at least so far as my own experience and opinions go, which is all any of us ever have to go on as far as stating the "truth".
I'm not immune to low confidence myself. It's a strange thing; you want desperately for someone to love your work, yet when someone says they do, without reservation, you're immediately suspicious. After all, you're far from a perfect writer (everyone is). There's got to be something they don't like about it. They must be lying. Why would they do that to you???
Thing is, stuff like that is, as I said previously, pretty much a part of being human. Other thing is, when we attempt something- particularly something creative and thusly personal- we tend to be even more subject to low self-confidence. We tend to wear our hearts even more on our sleeves.
Does this stop you?
A lot of writers, I've noticed, tend to, if not let it stop them completely, let it delay them. This is why a lot of beginning writers don't get out of the gate.
Don't do that.
Not because you shouldn't (you shouldn't, but me telling you that isn't going to make a difference). Not because you're right and they're wrong. Not because they're right and you're wrong. Not because they're rubber and you're glue.
Don't do it because...you can't.
Like, not because I'm telling you you can't. I mean, because you just, physically, mentally, spiritually, cannot stop writing.
Why do you write? Is it because you kind of wanted to try it someday, because your cousin Irv said he liked that comic you made in eighth grade, because you got praise from your teacher at one point? Is it because you thought it'd be easy? A nice hobby? A pastime?
Writing is none of those things.
Writing is love. Writing is anguish. Writing is despair, euphoria, all these things and more, most often right in a row. So, why does anyone ever write at all?
Because they must.
You don't write for the heck of it. It's not a choice. You write because it is who you are.
This doesn't just apply to writers, but to a lot of creative types. My Dad's a musician. You probably aren't familiar with his name (link to his stuff here; NOW you know who he is). He's been a musician for... heck. A long time. Since he was a teenager, though he might argue since he was a kid. Basically, his life. It's what he does. It's who he is.
My Dad drives me nuts in many ways (he's my Dad, after all). But I have a very high level of respect for him because he's stuck with it. And, at the same time, he is stuck with it. I understand that too. He's a musician. That's what he is. He can't not do it.
I can't not write. It took me a while to come to terms with the fact that I can write, that I can do this, but now that I've discovered that, I can't very well stop. It's ingrained. It's as much a part of me as my skin. You take it away; everything falls apart.
Ew. That was a really gross metaphor.
Anyway. I'm about to say something that you might not like, and this is probably an unpopular opinion. But, my blog, so I'm going to say it anyway.
If you stop writing; if you even think about stopping writing permanently; then, I hate to say it... but you're not a writer. It's not you. I don't say this lightly, but if you think about giving up... maybe you should.
If you're a real writer...then you won't be able to.
You have to want this. Not success, or even publication- I mean, of course you'll want those things, but I mean more than those. You have to want to write. You have to need to write. Whether you become as successful as J.K. Rowling, or live out your days in a cardboard box, scribbling on the walls and on the insides of empty gum wrappers.
You have to write.
*VERY BIG ADDENDUM*: The previous is, of course, my own opinion, take it or not as you will. And the important thing to remember is: this advice does NOT, not EVER, apply in cases of mental trauma or illness. Writing stems from the brain; thusly, if your brain is sick or injured in any way, the best thing you can do is take care of it. Take a break, do whatever you need to do, to get better. In such a case, stepping away is necessary.
Confidence. It's an issue for rather a lot of us.
I've lost count of the number of people I've seen online, or heard in person, lamenting about how they just don't have confidence in themselves. It seems like they're the only ones; everyone else seems to have it together. Will there be a point when they grow up and become comfortable with themselves enough to not have these doubts?
And there's the point right there. Of COURSE it sounds familiar.
That is because EVERYONE has those doubts. EVERYONE. I'm not just saying that to say that. We may have different levels of self-doubt and low confidence, but we all have it in some way. (Well, maybe not psychopaths. From what little I know about them, that seems unlikely, but not being a psychologist, I'll leave that idea alone. In any case, most people aren't psychopaths).
Any normal person is going to have doubt. That's part of what being a normal person IS.
I think it's especially easy for writers to feel this way. Most of us have the tendency to section ourselves off from people- nature of the beast, after all. With less interactivity, there's bound to be less of a feeling of inclusion, of being the same as these others. Add in the inevitable rejections, of hard criticism, of people who don't understand what it is that you do, of people who think being a writer is nice, but what about when you grow up?
Well, let's start there. With writers.
If you never attempt to do anything with your writing because you're worried about any of the above happening, you have a problem with confidence, right? And if you do work up the nerve to attempt it, one or more of the above is bound to happen at some point, and that can wear you down. It's hard to keep going.
I'm glad I joined Twitter. I have a writer's group locally, but with three kids it's hard to get out (I haven't been in two years). Twitter has enabled me to meet a TON of other writers, to talk and interact with them. When you do this, it's not difficult to notice that we have a lot in common. One of those is dealing with the above.
Huh. So. If we all have to deal with the above...and react in much the same way...seems like most if not all writers have difficulty with doubts.
So, that's part and parcel of writing. At least we can take comfort in knowing there are others like us, who know what we're going through. Even though we're the weirdos. Even though we're the outsiders. No normal people feel that way. There are plenty of people out there perfectly secure in who they are.
Well? Is it? You tell me, writers.
Who are we? We writers, we mad breed of life; what is it that we do? ...We observe. We observe other people, and report on it, all in our own highly individual ways.
So, observe others. Make up a story. Make them characters. The characters will not be perfect. They will have faults. They will have doubts.
So do people.
So does everyone.
We express our doubts in different ways; usually we try not to let others see it. If they can see that we doubt ourselves, they'll be less likely to take us seriously. We as a species admire confidence, which is why we're trying to hide our doubts in the first place. It's an important trait. Low confidence in your abilities doesn't help you kill the saber-toothed tiger, so to speak. Some of us are better at hiding our doubts. Some of us hide them so well we get to believing they aren't there (I'm looking at you, politicians). But they never really go away.
No. You won't ever get to the point where you won't have any doubts. And that's a GOOD thing.
If we didn't have doubt, we would never exercise caution. We wouldn't think twice before jumping off that cliff. The saber-toothed tiger would have us for lunch. We'd go out wearing plaid and polka dots together without a worry (gasp!). Doubts keep us in check. They manage our impetuosity, and keep us from doing really really stupid things. Most of the time.
Doubt is what makes us work harder. Doubt is what makes us strive to go farther. Doubt is what keeps us from leaving things as they are and saying they're good enough. Doubt makes us better writers. Doubt makes us better humans.
There will never be a time when you are completely without doubt. But, if you keep working at it, you will learn to manage, and to accept it. It will simply be a part of who you are. And guess what?
When that happens, some of that doubt will lift. By accepting your doubt, you will have new confidence in yourself.
And you won't be the only one.
I believe in you. You know why?
Because I doubt myself too. Everyone does. I can't say it enough. But I've learned to, on the whole, accept it. And that has helped me to realize that anyone can do it. Anyone, and everyone, has the potential to realize one thing:
They are good enough.
They are smart enough.
And, gosh darn it...people LIKE them!
There's a town just a couple hours to the North of us, right up against the lake in Wisconsin. Port Washington is a cozy little town, if a bit prone to touristy stuff (fancy shops and such) since it's somewhat popular with the summer folks. Nice harbor, lots of fishing boats.
The fam and I stopped there a while back; a relative was getting married in the are and we had some time to kill before the reception. We drove down into the area right by the harbor, got out, walked around. The road closest to the lake has a line of shops, ending in a coffee shop (oh joy, oh rapture unbounded!).
We went in; it was a bit chilly due to being RIGHT by the lake, so I got a coffee. And a muffin. I mean, they were there...
Then, back out into the neat little park next door. It's small, no playground (at least, not yet), just a few statues and a beautiful pavilion. Perfect for walking.
If you keep walking, you get to a couple of those viewing telescopes you have to put money into. Then, next to that, you can either go out on the docks or on to the rocks that go for a ways out into the lake. We did both.
Maybe it was a perfect storm of locale, upkeep, being in a pretty good mood that day...but it's one of my happiest memories. One of my happiest places. We've been back a few times since, and while perhaps not quite as memorable as the first time, there has really been very little diminishment of that place in my eyes.
I mean; look at this pic. Just look at it!!!
I'd like to live there, I thought. Or someplace like it. At the time, I was contributing to another blog, and wrote a long-winded post rhapsodizing about how when I grow to retirement years (fingers crossed), that's how I'd like to live.
A small harbor town. I'd walk or bike to get coffee every morning. The regulars would know me; the occasional visitor might recognize my name as "that well-known author". I'd head out on the pier, a bit chilly but cozied by said coffee and my hand-knitted sensible sweater, of which I shall have quite a few. I'd lean on the rail, staring out at the ocean, letting the thoughts go where they may. Then, I'd head back to my home, a bit older and not in the best shape but it's well-loved, sit at my typewriter, and get to work.
Typewriter?? I mean, I'm old-fashioned, but those things can get super annoying to work with, what with the keys sticking and changing ribbon and... I have no idea where that came from.
Or had. My husband got a bit miffed, wondering exactly where he was in this scenario. Fair question; I had no idea. Just off somewhere, I supposed. But the true reason why didn't strike me until some time later, when I was watching TV. Then I realized:
I want to be Jessica Fletcher.
I mean, who doesn't?
(Except the being a widow part. Sorry about that, hun! You stick around as long as you want, that's fine by me!).
Dear American Girl Company,
I want to start out by saying that I love American Girl. I really do. It's been there since I was a kid; I don't remember the dolls, but I did read the books and get the paper dolls (still got them. I do love paper dolls). Now I have my own daughter, and can share it with her. It was her eighth birthday yesterday; we went to the Chicago store and celebrated with a new doll and a fancy lunch. I enjoyed it just as much as she did. By now there are even more characters and merchandise and it's this whole thing and sure, I get swept up in it. It's fun. And it teaches my daughter good things. Like how all American girls are so different, yet we all have something in common.
There's one thing that many (no, not all; but many) American Girl characters have in common. Let me assist my presentation with a visual aid:
See it? No? Well, I believe those are all Truly Me dolls. You have more kinds than that. How about the character dolls:
And I think those are the tiny versions. But you get the idea.
Okay, then. I'm just going to come out and say it.
Those are a LOT of white girls.
Now. I can't be the first person to mention this. And, yes, there are girls who aren't white. All three of them. In the characters at least. And the Truly Me dolls do come in assorted skin colors. The picture isn't truly (Truly) representative of the variety. I'll be fair about that.
The character dolls, as I said, have only three characters of different racial aspect. But, you say, these are historical dolls. It's difficult to have characters of different racial aspect in American history, when you also want to tell American occurrences through the perspective of a girl who would be in a good position to be affected by it.
I highly doubt it. A storyteller with even half-decent imagination would be able to come up with something. It's like teaching our girls that other races didn't have much to do with the forming of our nation: the great Melting Pot. Not much of a melting pot if all the girls have the same European background. Having so few characters of different backgrounds smacks of the token black girl, the token Native American, the token Mexican, tokentokentoken. Is that really what you want people to think of when they think American Girl?
That said, the main issue I'm finding is with the Girl of the Year. Every year, there's a new character to spotlight; she gets her own doll, movie, the whole shebang. Let's take a look at those girls:
Okay. We have Marisol, who is Hispanic...Jess, who I believe is part Asian? Kind of hard to tell from here? And Kanani, who is Hawaiian. ...And then we have the rest of them.
There's also Saige of 2013. White. Isabelle from 2014. White. And blonde. And blue-eyed. There's a lot of blondes here too. And Grace 2015...you guessed it, white. Now there's Lea of 2016. At least she has a tan.
I find it ironic that at least half the staff of your Chicago store is of another race. The stock is most definitely not.
Where are the African girls? The Inuit? The lower Pacific? The Indian? The entire continent of South America? These all have immigrants who come here. And not just those of a different color skin; how about the Greek girls? The Russian? Etc. Etc. Etc.
The only reason I can think of to give these the shaft, in favor of largely European descent, is the bald fact that your stuff costs money. Big boocoo bucks. And the families in our country that have that kind of money are, sadly, more likely to be white, and of said European descent. Or at least that's what I believe your demographics are telling you. Tell me I'm wrong. Please. Tell me I'm wrong. I want to be wrong.
I know you're a company. A large corporation. As such, you have to be concerned about the bottom line. You won't be in business long if you're not.
I'm not appealing to your ideals, as such. You're a company. Ideals are all very well, but the aforesaid bottom line and all that capitalist stuff, which is part of how our country is and okay. But I will point out that, ostensibly at least, your company's message is that diversity is accepted. That all American girls are amazing, and awesome, and, as aforesaid, have things in common.
How much can they have in common if girls of different backgrounds aren't represented in the stores? That sends a message. A message that is becoming more noticeable. As I said, I'm sure I'm not the only one to complain about this. The more you continue on this chosen path, the more noticeable it will get. Soon enough, you'll have more people ranting online; demonstrating; boycotting.
How will that affect your bottom line?
Sometimes, we have to take into consideration the touchy feely stuff, if we want a company to continue. Particularly if it's what the company's supposed to be all about.
I like your product. And, as such, I will continue to hope for the best from you.
Thanks for your time.
So I guess this is a thing going around the ol' Internet; I was tagged by a friend who did it on her blog (see her responses here). Funsies! And away we go:
Pride; share a line or small scene you're really proud to have written.
Just one?! Seriously, though: that moment where you write something...you sit back and look at it...and you know it's good. Happens about once every thousandth chapter or so. But it's worth waiting for.
Like most writers, I've got several. Some are great, meaningful lines; some are wonderful scenes with all the threads coming together just right. But I'm too impatient to search those down right now, so I'm settling for this fun little scene from a work in progress. At least, I think it's fun; for whatever reason, language barrier humor never fails to crack me up:
The Norwegian enters SL.
Chelie: Oh. Hello again. (she eyes him up and down once more) …I’m glad you weren’t a dream, at least.
The Norwegian does not answer.
Chelie: (gesturing) Cigarette? (he stands impassive; she shrugs) Just as well. Filthy habit. I should quit. (beat) So you don’t speak any English? (she stands and walks slowly toward him) Maybe you just need a good teacher. We could…ah, educate each other. I’ve always wanted to learn… (she pauses)uh.…Swedish? …Russian? ... Sorry, I can’t remember what you are.
Chelie: Well, I’ll figure it out. (she comes closer, looking up at him seductively) I enjoy a good mystery.
Norwegian: Hvor er du kaffe?
Chelie: (shivering with excitement) I agree. Who needs language? I think we understand each other just fine.
Norwegian: Frokost, kanskje?
Chelie: Oh, you’re so right!
She throws her arms around him and kisses him passionately. Surprised, he gives a little shrug and puts his arms around her in turn.
Envy; tell about a story you wish you had written.
Ooh, hands down Carol Berg's Flesh and Spirit. That woman crafts sentences like a super-cool crafty sentency-type person. And in movies, which count because I write scripts (not movie scripts, but, well, I just love movies), definitely Predestination. Love me some twists, and that one... yeah. That one broke my brain.
Wrath; tell about a trope or cliche that makes you furious.
Furious is a strong word. Let's say Supremely Annoyed, and tack on a mega-frowny emoji wearing a crown. They make those, right?
For me, it's probably Post-Apocalyptica. Ironically, my husband loves such tales. They drive me nuts. Mainly because the apocalypse so often happens because humans were idiots, and then the survivors of the rubble (just the fact that most of humanity has died horribly is enough of a downer for me) have to struggle, and usually split into factions and fight each other because it's a cautionary tale and when will humanity ever learn and all that crap. I just...I have more optimism than that. I don't want to read about us fighting each other because that's supremely depressing. What about working together? What about coming together in times of hardship? And so our technology's gone (Revolution TV show, I'm looking at you). So?? How do we just fall apart without our cell phones? No. No, I don't think so. Not from the beings who made the pyramids. Not from the people who figured out irrigation. Not from the folks who (finally) understand what DNA is!! We can do more than survive. We can thrive.
And if we're confused how to start, we can just ask the Amish. :)
Gluttony; tell about a trope you can't get enough of.
Ooh. I wouldn't necessarily say "get enough of". You can get enough of anything. Fairly quickly, in fact.
But that said...steampunk. Oh, yeah, steampunk. This drives my husband nuts (ah, love!). Just the "goggles and top hat uniform" aspect of it. I loves me some goggles and top hats. Even so, I believe there's a point about wearing goggles and top hats only if your character calls for it. If there's no reason for it, don't use it as part of your costume. Anyhoo.
Steampunk, stories and otherwise, is a thing I always loved, I just never knew there was a name for it. When I found out, the heavens opened, sunlight cascaded toward me, an angel choir sang... yeah, pretty much. Iron! Brass! Dirigibles! LOVE.
I also enjoy time travel. The paradoxical the better.
Lust; tell about a character you'd do unspeakable things to.
One of my characters? Or someone else's? I'll go with someone else's, that seems more appropriate. Let's see, it's gotta be either Valen from the aforementioned Flesh and Spirit; or Simon from Angie Sage's Flyte. Being a kid's book, this last might seem an unusual choice to some people (including the author, who I met a a book signing. She seemed VERY taken aback when I told her he was my favorite character. It got awkward.). But who can fathom the ways of the bookworm heart? Anyway, he's more than old enough. ...And imaginary. Er.
Oh, and Maledict from Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment. But he turned out to really be female, which for me kind of quenched that one right there. Oh, well. More for the lesbians, I guess. Luckies.
Sloth; tell about your favorite form of procrastination.
Pretending I'm going over a written work for editing purposes when I'm really just taking the excuse to read it aloud again. Then Twitter; then Facebook; then looking up words in the thesaurus; then getting up to do an antsy monkey dance; then household chores.
Greed; tell which author is at the top of your auto-buy list.
Sadly, financial constraints make this a wish list. Right now it's anything by Carol Berg. Used to be Terry Pratchett, but he put out so much that his works got a bit diluted and he started to repeat himself. *sad*
Tra la, this was fun! Anyone else out there get the itchies to try this, let me know. Fun to see the different things for different people! If you don't appreciate others' differences... well, you're probably not a writer.
The writer sat down at the table. Laptop open, notebooks spread out, pens and coffee at the ready. The blank page looked back expectantly.
Ooh. How about a story based in Mongol China? That sounds so cool!
...I know nothing about Mongol China. I'd have to do a bunch of research before really getting to write anything.
How about opening up an old story and working on that some more? Got lots half-finished. Also got lots kind of finished that need editing. Like, heavy editing. Like, changing half the existing story editing.
I know. I'll check in with my Twitter peeps. They'll have some encouraging words.
HAHA that is one funny cat picture! I've got to retweet that...
How did they get that cat to wear pants? Are those doll clothes, or did they make those specifically for the cat? Are there companies that do this? Googling.
Crap. No. On task. Working.
Doodoodoodoo, Everybody's Working for the Weekend... which never really made any sense to me. Are they working during the weekend? Are they working with the expectation that all will be worth it once the weekend arrives? I mean, is it ever really worth it? Who says, when they come to the end of their lives, "I wish I'd worked more?", weekend or no?
Speaking of work- that's what I'm doing. Not being distracted. Not me.
Or is it "Not I"? You know, grammar can be so helpful and such a hindrance at the same time. Kind of six of one, half a dozen of the other. That's a cool phrase. I wonder when and where it was first used. Googling.
NO! Working! Shutting out the world! No more distractions, ever!
"No more wire hangers-EVER!" Never seen that movie. Never really had any desire to see it, either. Was Joan Crawford really that bad a mother, or was it merely Christina's perspective? Probably a bit of both. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
That's a cool phrase. Googling.
Crap! Writing time's up already!? What the hell? I didn't even have the chance to get anything done!
Well, you know. Fame being a relative term.
Got my royalty report from my publisher. Last couple have been big fat zeros, so I wasn't expecting anything. And, lo!
There's always room to say lo.
A theatre in Tennessee bought the play.
AND they PERFORMED it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Multiple exclamation marks, they say, are a sure sign of a diseased mind. You freakin' betcha.
(This poster is actually from the Illinois production. I don't know what the Tennessee poster looked like, I haven't been able to find it. Why do you fail me, Internet???)
So today, I'd like to talk about the experience of having your play performed, if only because that happened before it was published. The Illinois one, that is. Not the Tennessee, which came after. Let me start again.
The play was workshopped through the Batavia, Illinois theatre group Albright Theatre Company. Not actually where I live, and there are groups closer to me, but these people are so lovely and welcoming, I feel quite at home there. The workshop was a fantastic experience, and I'll go into it some other time. After all was done there, I copyrighted the play. Then I sat on it.
Why didn't you get it published right away, I hear you say? Well, I'm glad you asked. This is owing to some confusion which is probably entirely on my part. Play publishers say in their submittal instructions that they require a play to have been performed. This makes sense, as a play needs to be able to work on stage, and what better way to make certain? However, I was not sure (still am not sure) if a "performance" also included a workshop performance, or if they mean a performance performance only. Anyone know?
So I waited until such time as the theatre should decide to attempt it. Which they did! Such awesome people, such great friends! I still can't thank them enough.
They also permitted me to sit in on the auditions. Not the casting, I left before that. I wanted to be able to inject my opinion, but not too much. At the point of performance, or going-to-be-performed, a play becomes a group project. It's not just yours anymore. So I wanted to be clear that this was, to an extent, the directors' (not a misplaced apostrophe, there were two) baby.
I also sat in on rehearsals, about one every couple of weeks, again not to overstay my welcome. I took notes so I could make certain anything really really important wasn't neglected. Never going to have that chance again!
Then I attended every performance but one (I had tickets to the Nutcracker). Houses were packed! How thrilling! I mean, it was a Christmas play with a large cast which helped. :)
So, opening night. Oh, excitement. Oh, butterflies. Oh, what an experience I shall hold always and shall never have again. I ordered a dress off Modcloth just for the occasion. It cost $50! (I don't spend that much on a single article of clothing. Ever.) I haven't worn it since, either. I should probably do that.
My parents came in from New York State; we got a sitter for the kids as the first performance was night and past their bedtimes (they saw it next week). Then we all went out to dinner before the show at a little restaurant right across the river, overlooking. Did I mention the theatre's on the river? It's on the river. The restaurant was right fancy and bedecked (ooh) with Christmas lights. Magical.
We walked back across the bridge and got to the theatre 20 minutes early. Butterflies. I wasn't worried. I knew the cast had it down. Just so excited. Wondered if anyone would realize the writer was in their midst :). Hoped everyone would laugh in the right spots (they never do). Hoped people would laugh, period.
The performance went smoothly. Most did (do NOT talk to me about the one that didn't). And people liked it! Or seemed to! What an ego trip! Top of the world, ma!*
We waited afterward while I had to congratulate and give hugs to the cast and directors. Then we all piled in the car and went home (yes, we got the kids). We sat up talking about it for a while. Then it was nightnights time. Brushed my teeth. Got in my jammies. Climbed into bed.
And thought, "Did that just happen?"
Think about it, though. What else are you going to do? This must be what happens after actors get Oscars and such. Things go on as normal. Life goes on.
But for me, it'll go on with this amazingly special memory. One of the best experiences of my life. I will never forget. Never never never. Brain cells, I'm looking at you.
*It also bears mentioning that a friend I hadn't seen since like grade school- reconnected with her through Facebook- also flew out to see the play!!! Right?? I don't deserve such good friends. People are amazing.
Hey, blog. C'mere. Oh, now don't be like that. You know I love you...
Oh. Uh, hey there, reader. Heheh. Just, ah, you know, it's been a while away from the blog, and, uh...yes.
Anyhoo. How was (were?) everyone's holidays? 😄
Mine were BEEEEZY. I mean, they're always busy, and I know you're thinking, "not as busy as mine, no way", but you're wrong. Oh, you are so wrong.
2015 was the year of the Handmade Holidays. I was attempting to save money. It almost worked (until my eldest decided he wanted Lego Dimensions above all else, which was 80 FREAKIN' BUCKS I mean seriously kid do you think I'm made of money).
Let's start with the list, shall we?
So, yeah. This is why I've been neglecting my poor little blog. And, sure, it's been a couple of weeks now since Christmas, but I've been taking that time off...been a little tired...not sure why...
I've been reaching out to other writers lately (mainly on Twitter- hi all!). It's struck me how much we have in common. Whenever anyone details something regarding their work, or the writing process, just about all of us other writers know exactly what that person is talking about. It's delightful. To be able to feel part of a community without leaving your house: it's the writer's dream. :)
Not every writer works the same way, however. There are some differences. I've said before how there are many "rules" to writing handed down by experts (a word which here means any writer who feels like spouting off). This may be helpful to the beginning writer, but basically (in my own limited experience) I can find no tip better than to, simply, write. The more you write, the better you get. And the more you find what works for you.
That said, here's my own personal thoughts on writing. :)
Writing is like any other thing we experience in life: dependent on perspective. Something I've been noticing more and more is the tendency of many a writer to refer to their writing as an "art". And herein lies the point I've been making my typically roundabout way toward.
(Disclaimer, all too often necessary on the internet: my perspective. Mine. Feel free to disregard it. As I said, we all have one [perspectives are like...], and mine is what works for me. Yours may work better for you. To each their own.)
Writing is not an art. It is a craft.
Here's the difference. Art carries the connotation of something free-spirited, flowing, difficult to pin down. If you do happen to pin it down, it will land splotched on the page much as it is, because you haven't changed it whatsoever. You haven't crafted it. What makes it art is its purity. The unformed thought, the dream, put to page in its original form.
But that's not writing, is it?
One might almost think so. I've read many stories that seem to have undergone few to no changes, as if they were just placed there. And the stories are very good. Some of them are very, very good. But they suffer for lack of crafting.
Grammar is helpful. A well-placed comma can make all the difference. But crafting is not just grammar. It's going through your story and thinking about it critically. What would you think if you were reading this story for the first time? Does it make sense? This is another issue I find more often than I'd like. I'll be going along enjoying the spin of the tale, when suddenly I'm somewhere and I don't know how I got there. Then I have to go back and figure out if I missed something, of if that something just got left out. It's usually the latter.
Many (many) writers bemoan having to edit. Many (many!) writers give the advice not to edit until your piece is done.
This makes no sense to me.
I'm a natural editor. I cannot go through a story or play without editing as I go along. If a sentence does not make sense, I usually don't continue until I fix it. This doesn't mean I'm done at the first draft. It does mean that I don't have a first draft. The way I see it, the piece is a continually evolving beast, in a constant state of flux. The first draft has (or hopefully has) well-crafted sentences and grammar. Once I'm all the way through, I go back and find what doesn't make sense (particularly as when I get to the end of a story I'm usually in a very different place than where I started), and try to fix it. I change. I cut. I do what needs to be done.
Editing is the craft. Your piece needs editing. If you want to make your story the best that it is- all that it has the potential to be, and to help other people see that potential- you will put in the work. You will perform the necessary craftsmanship.
The good news is, like most things, crafting gets easier the more you do it. Soon, you'll have a feel for a well-crafted sentence. You'll find yourself looking for discrepancies. You'll recognize what is superfluous. And, the good news? You'll also notice parts that flow well. You'll see when you've done something clever and didn't even realize it. You'll have an easier time keeping the entire work, and all its issues, organized in your head, and that is no easy feat.
You'll have become a craftsperson.
And you will be a better writer for it.
The other day, I made a post. It's the one prior to this one. Lots of happy gabblings about my favorite band. Prattling in over-stuffed paragraphs. It's what I do.
I had concerns with posting it. I have concerns- fear- with all my posts. The usual writer's worries. In this case, the concerns were compounded given that I have the utmost respect for these guys. What if they happen to read it- and don't like it? What if my unbridled enthusiasm comes off as the type of person you smile politely at and carefully edge away from?
It may have. But I kept it largely as it was. And I posted it anyway.
Because we should never hesitate to let someone know we appreciate them.
The next day- yesterday- the attacks came in Paris.
On came the shock. On came the sadness. On came the news, filtering in piece by piece; the badly-timed political comments; the pledges of solidarity.
Times of crisis bring out the best in so many. That is heartening to see. The world may crumble about our feet, but if we stand together we have a better chance of survival.
When are we going to realize that we are all we've got?
To paraphrase another thing I stated in my previous post (that's timing, sigh): if we can put aside our differences and stop the fighting, and understand that this is it: this planet, this people, we are, really, no, REALLY, all we've got; imagine the possibilities.
I hate situations like this- an understatement. The horror, the needless losing of lives to hate, the overwhelming feeling of helplessness. What can I do?? But there's nothing. Not for me, personally. I'm half a world away.
People began posting other things. Not just these attacks in Paris, but reminders of the other attacks that took place there all too recently. Then other attacks, around the world. One just the day beforehand, in Lebanon. Was there any coverage of it in our (American) news? Apparently not. (I don't know personally, I don't watch the newsnews anymore, just get it from Facebook, Twitter, and occasional Daily Show. ...But nobody mentioned it there that I saw...)
This is worrying. There's a whole segment of the world that doesn't seem to merit attention as being newsworthy, despite the scores of lives lost. If it happened in this country, you better believe it'd be all over the place. So... why?
There are a couple of explanations I've been able to think of, neither of them good. One is that the areas suffering recent attacks are, generally speaking, areas that suffer attacks rather a lot; or at least are areas CLOSE to areas that suffer attacks a lot, and/or are also in turmoil quite often. So: it happens often enough... we get used to it... it's not news anymore.
People dying. In scores, no less. ...That's not news...
The other thought is just as depressing. Paris is a city; a bustling metropolis. Sure, it's foreign, but still it's... a lot like American cities. The city and the people have a lot of characteristics that many of us Americans can understand. Areas in the Middle East and even surrounding, many Americans are not so familiar with, except for being at war with them (if you can even call it a war). It seems as though, perhaps, it's just the prejudice at work here: that they're the enemy, they're different. That they're not like us.
They're not like us.
I hope I'm wrong. I hope there's some other, logical, reason why we haven't covered these situations; it's just that I can't see any other possibilities.
Why can't we see past the superficial? Judgments based on appearance are ingrained, and may have saved our lives many many thousands of years ago. But this is now, and we have developed the ability to question our prejudices. Why do we not do this more often? Who cares how often someone prays, or who they pray to, if it doesn't affect your life in any way? Who cares what they eat or how they get to work, or what that work is, again, if it doesn't affect you? They're still people. They still eat. They still work. They still care for their children, and want the best for them.
I continue to hope. I will always have hope. I want to bring that hope to others. I want to let everyone know, right now, that I care about them. I may not agree with your views, but (again the caveat: if it doesn't harm me or anyone else) those are superficial things. At our core, we are all human. We are all life.
And we are all we've got.
Writer, dancer, actress, mother, me.