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Pop Your Bubble!

Posted by on Oct 20, 2016 in Busybird | 0 comments

bubbleThe best way you can learn to write is by writing.

It doesn’t matter how much theory you gorge on, until you execute, until you learn how to articulate your imagination, structure your story, and develop your writing processes, you will never learn to write. It’s in the writing that you work out how you do things, find your voice, and grow as a writer.

But there is a danger in existing and trying to evolve singularly in a bubble. You could write book after book after book. But how will you know what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well? You could be writing reams of exposition. How’re you going to know? You might think it’s working for you, and just continue to do it, not realising what you’re doing is to your detriment.

This is where it’s important that you do get challenged.

It might just come in submitting. Lots of places use form rejections – usually, they do so not because they want to be cold and impersonal, but because it’s just too time-prohibitive to write a personal response to everybody submitting. However, some journals still offer feedback, as do competitions. Look for those who do (especially if you’re paying money to enter a competition).

Workshops are another great place to be challenged. Here, you can learn about components of writing that you can take away and apply to your own work. You might learn about active versus passive sentences, go away, and in reviewing your own work, find that you write too passively. This is something you might never have encountered if you stayed inside your bubble.

Along the route of workshops, courses are another avenue you might take. Some might not want to commit to some long period of schooling, but there’s always short courses. Find something that appeals to you either personally, or to what you’re writing. There’s lots of great stuff out there.

Find people you trust to share your writing with, people who are going to give you constructive criticism (which usually rules out family). You could join or start a workshopping group, or just find specific people you trust. With the advent of email and the assistance of Track Changes, it’s so easy to do things electronically nowadays.

Pop your bubble!

You need to write. You need to have something down on the page to work with so you can find what your strengths and weaknesses are – where you’re doing okay, and where you can improve. You’ll never know any of this until you do write, because your writing is going to behave as your frame of reference. Writing is always the key. But, at some point, you will need some sort of exposure to learn new things you can apply, or to examine where you need to improve. Just remember something paramount as far as the latter goes: be open.

Don’t ever think that your writing is infallible. Don’t ever believe that you’ve always got it right, and everybody else has got it wrong. One common denominator amongst the better writers is that they’re all open to being challenged, because they recognise that’s how they’re going to get better, and that’s how they’re going to improve whatever they’re working on.

The moment you close yourself off, you’ll stay where you’ve always been.

In a bubble.

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The Measure of Success

Posted by on Oct 13, 2016 in Busybird | 0 comments

dartsWhat is the measure of success as a writer? If I could grant you success, what would your definition be?

Everybody measures success differently, but here are some possible definitions:

  • to have a bestseller: we’d all love that, wouldn’t we? To have our book appear on – for example – the New York Times bestseller list.
  • to become rich: this is a definition of success in any vocation – to be able to buy whatever you want, whenever you want. As a writer – an industry where the bulk of people don’t live off their writing – how much more validation for your success could you have?
  • to win an award: it could be the Miles Franklin or the Man Booker, or even the Nobel Prize. How’s that for recognition? How’s that for success?
  • fame: you’re all people talk about when it comes to storytelling, and you’re recognised in the streets.
  • adaptation: your books are adapted for film or television.

When you consider how many published authors there are, how many of them manage to get to any of these heights? A fraction? Less? The figure’s even tinier when you think about just how many writers there are, period. Another concern here is if you do reach any of these pinnacles, where do you go? And how do you deal with the pressure of now having to maintain (or surpass) that standard? These are just asides, but they’re important asides because they demonstrate that there is a price to pay for this level of success, however alluring this success might seem.

Some might be more modest with their aspirations:

  • to live off your writing: you might be happy living a quiet, unassuming life, and just want time to be able to write.
  • having a career in writing and writing-related industries: not only do you write and publish, but work in the publishing industry, perhaps as an editor or teacher.
  • being able to publish regularly: regardless what you do to pay the bills, you churn the books out, and even develop a following.

And, honestly, this is the life of most published authors. There’s nothing glamorous about it, but it can still seem unreachable when you’ve published, but your book’s not selling; or when you’re out there, submitting, and dealing with rejections.

Some might just be more hopeful:

  • to be published.

That would be nice, wouldn’t it?

This is by no means a definitive list, but it does cover a spectrum of possibilities – all of them material.

Your goals might (seemingly) be more philanthropic:

  • to touch a reader: plenty of stories are moving experiences for the reader, the story remaining with the reader, long, long after the reader has put the story down.
  • to educate: your field might be nonfiction, and you might want readers to know about something historical, a specialist topic, or just give the reader some self-help tips about leading a better life.

There’s still an element of ego in these possibilities if the author’s intent is to be known for any of these achievements, rather than seeing these achievements exist for the sake of the achievement itself. That’s an important distinction, and it’s worth being brutally honest with yourself to see where you stand because something all these gains share is they all have a qualitative measure – you can measure how many books you’ve sold, how much money you’ve made, how many other people you’ve beaten for an award, how well you’re recognised, how many people you’ve reached, and on that list goes.

Ultimately, that begs the question of how much is enough? Even if your aspirations are modest, how modest are they? The freedom to write is a luxury. Even if your life is hectic – work, partner, kids, household, responsibilities, etc. – and all you can manage is fifteen minutes of writing-time three or four times a week, it’s still a luxury, however hard-won or well-deserved that luxury might be.

And that’s the genuine measure of success – the freedom to write, and to pursue and accomplish your goal, rather than any reward earned from it.

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