My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chris's Fortune Cookie Wisdom for Writers XVII

Editors are like therapists. Some people need to hit an unforgiving wall of heavy-hitting feedback. Some need to find one who knows how to aikido their bullshit. Some are ready for "This totally doesn't work" and some need "I'm not sure what you're trying to do here..." If they're too mean, you shut down. And if they're too nice, your shit doesn't get EDITED––you just feel better about it. Trust me that you can pay a lot less per hour to just get validating compliments. Shop your editors!  

To get those amazing themes that work with the other elements of the story, tease OUT what you find  in revision, don't shoehorn them IN right away trying to be hella deep. 

It's an incredibly frustrating thing to want to be a writer and be told to read more. Unfortunately, it is like doing scales in music or warming up before sports practice. It's a fundamental part of the process. What feedbackers usually mean when they suggest going back and reading a lot more is that there are LOTS of fundamental, core problems in one's writing and it indicates that one has a very difficult time intuiting the difference between bad and good writing.

If you think of a writer's career trajectory as similar to a doctor's for time-to-viable trajectory, you will be in good shape for how much effort it's going to take. You can substitute reading and hard practice for undergrad degrees and MFA's but you have to be The Punisher Season Two brutal with yourself about if you're putting in full-time caliber effort or diddling while you play Total War games until 3am. Four years of undergrad.  Four years of medical school. Three to seven years as an intern/resident years as an intern/resident. That tracks with the five years of solid effort at writing before you're making more than a pittance and three to seven more before you can pay the bills.

You have to read all the time. Trying to just write is like trying to only breathe OUT.

This isn't writing advice, but maybe it's communication advice. If someone's asking about best dates, you should really check and see if they mean best FIRST dates. Because they probably didn't want to know about the threesome and the MDMA even though that's deffo the one.

If you want to dream, dream. Have fun. If you want to reach your objectives, the trick is setting goals that are realistic, within your control and measurable.

You have a relationship with your writing that needs as much emotional labor as a real one to flourish. Although unlike most relationships with people, writing will still be there after you leave for five years, have a spring/fall romance, and buy a convertible. 

You know writing every day doesn't have to mean six grueling hours on your work in progress. Add some sparkle to an email. Make a Facebook post. Write in a journal. Knock out thirty minutes. Just keep your craft sharp for the days when you CAN give it more.

When Facebook throttles your content (and they will), just remember how well you did when people actually saw your stuff out there and had the option to click on it. Facebook wasn't making them click your link. It was just ACTUALLY showing your link to more people. They chose to read it. You're doing better than you think. 

No one will ever give you the permission you seek to go be a writer. You just have to do it.

Human beings tell stories. In really, really real ways, human beings ARE stories. History is a story of how we got here. Politics is a story of who gets what and when. Polemics is a story of what we ought to find important. Most human beings exist as the main character in a story about their lives. Everyone has a story about you they tell other people. When you die, the only thing left...is a story about who you were. Everything is stories. The words that will stay are written down. Writers are some of the most powerful people to ever exist. 

When you see advice you don't like, instead of saying no, unpack WHY your saying no and what you feel like you're risking to give that advice a good-faith try. You often discover something about yourself and what you most need to be doing by considering what you are avoiding.
The seep of culture has some powerful messages that are pretty rough on artists. And that's before the STEM cheerleaders come out and act like the humanities are soft and for losers. Most artists have a day job or three, and the art they do make has its own messages of value (or lack thereof) even if it does not profit them with a monetary value that is easily expressed by how much someone would give them to possess their creations. 

Keep reading. Keep writing. Don't give up. You got this.


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