Friday, October 31, 2008

What I've Learned In 2 Years

A little while ago I wrote a series of blog entries titled "On Writing" (so titled after the amazing Stephen King "how-to" book of the same name), in which I mentioned my writing habits and schedule. You can find them here: part 1, part 2, part 3. In it, I mentioned that I only started writing seriously--i.e., with a mind towards publishing--two years ago. Even though it hasn't been a long time at all in writerly years, there's already a noticeable difference in my perception of the business. This outlook is, of course, ever evolving, but I thought it'd be interesting to examine what I've learned thus far.

If I could coalesce it all into one salient observation, it would be on account of discipline. And what does this mean exactly? Well simple:

Before 2006, I thought writing followed a formula of: 10% discipline, and 90% creative talent.

2 years later, I realize this is utterly simplistic, let alone wrong. Writing well enough to publish takes, in my opinion, about: 20% discipline, 10% creativity -- and 70% stubbornness!

If you notice, there's a pretty interesting paradigm shift at work here. Before I knew anything at all about the business, I held a rather romanticized view of writing fiction. I assumed that talent was everything. That good ideas and good natural writing ability was the most important thing to it, and how you went about the actual mechanics of writing was secondary. In other words, if you had the talent, that's all you needed. The stories would all but write themselves.

Boy, how stupid was I?

These days, while I'm still no more publishable than I was 2 years ago, I've learned that talent amounts for squat if you don't have the discipline and tenacity to see your work through. And it's not just through my own writing that I've learned this lesson, but through listening to other writers and their journeys as well.

The wittiest, most popular, most prolific writers out there all have the same thing in common -- and that is that they were rejected hundreds, if not thousands, of times before one of their pieces sold, or before they started selling regularly. Because that's the key right there; not just selling something once, but being able to keep on selling.

These weren't writers who just emerged out of the blue one day with the Hugo award-winning novel under their arms -- they actually *sucked* at some point. Which is not to say they did not possess innate talent (because, of course, talent is sorta necessary if you want to be successful, no?), but that they did not yet possess the discipline to make that talent shine.

The true test of a new writer, therefore, is how much knocking about he can take until pay dirt is reached. Can he withstand the countless rejections, withering critiques, and constant nitpicking and still keep on writing day-in and day-out? The new writer has to be able to eat shit and keep on smiling, because the dream is too big to give up on.

So after learning all this, and spending even just 2 years with my nose to the grindstone, I have come to this one saving conclusion: That all writers are stubborn assholes.

And it would do me well to emulate them their assholery. :)

3 comments:

cindy said...

dude. did you just call me an asshole? hahaha!

David Batista said...

LOL! I know, right? What the hell is wrong with me? :)

But you know what I mean. Whatever it is you have, I want it!

Wait, that didn't come out right either. I meant . . . aw hell, I think you get it.

Ashe Hunt said...

Right, right. Discipline and unwavering drive. I learned that reading Steven Barnes' blog. That dude has a master's formula for writing.

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