Friday, February 17, 2012

Zette's Take: The power of attitude


My last blog post brought me a couple interesting letters.  One was on the value of having a clean house, which I agree with . . . in theory.  (grin) 

Another, though, was a lecture about working harder, not just 'throwing words on a page and calling it good' and how a writer who doesn't work hard is never going to be a good writer. 

And I agree.   

Nowhere in my blog did I not say I wasn't working hard on writing. 

This is the attitude difference.  Far too many people seem to think that if you enjoy something, you can't be working hard.  If you aren't working hard, then what you do can't be worth anything.  So apparently unless you are miserable every time you sit down at your computer, fight to write a paragraph before you give up, then your work isn't worth reading.

Attitude, people.  Let's look at attitude. 

People can actually love their work, even when it is difficult.  In fact, overcoming the difficulty may be what makes the work enjoyable.  The difficulty may come in different areas for various writers. While I write fast first drafts, I spend years on the tweaking and rewriting of most things.  I began the novel I'm going to release next month (The Servant Girl) six years ago.  Obviously, there is nothing fast in something which takes six years to complete.  I did write the initial first draft quickly, but my first drafts almost always flow like movies and I write as quickly as I can to keep up. Then I edit and rework and edit some more.  I let a story sit for a long time and come back to it when I can't remember it line for line and start going over the story again.  This is the way I work.  It is not fast.  I don't ever throw words on a page and call them good. 

You do not see my first drafts except in occasional snippets.  They are tools to write a better story; they are not the story, finished and ready for readers. 

Now, if pausing over every word and taking an hour with a paragraph is what works for you, then good.  However, it's not going to make you a better writer (or a worse one, either).  Being a better writer comes from knowledge, inspiration, what you have learned and ability and has nothing to do with the amount of time it takes you to write a sentence.  The exception is when you know you don't write as well if you move quickly and you have no intention of going back and editing. 

Slow writing, fast writing, edit-while-you-go or edit afterwards has nothing to do with what is in your brain and how well you translate that vision to the written word. 

The other part of attitude is a willingness to learn to write better.  If you are not willing to do two things, you aren't going to improve: 

1.  You have to be willing to study the art of writing.  Books, articles, other people's writings -- study it all.  This seems obvious, but I have too often told people 'go check how your favorite author handles that' to writers who are stumped on how to do something.  Really.  Check the books you love for answers, and then adapt those answers to your own style and situation. 

2. You have to be willing to experiment.  Take a chance and step out of the ordinary.  As an example, a lot of people are inspired by anime stories.  Anime, however, is a visual art and they sometimes have trouble transforming those visions into a story.  The trick may be to step outside the anime realm and look into something else.  I would suggest mythology, and not just Japanese myths. Why?  Because myths are word-based and reading those words may be just what you need to nudge the ideas in your head.  Experimentation is the heart of writing something extraordinary and out of the ordinary.  If you are not willing to take a chance and write something, even knowing it might not work, you are going to forever limit yourself.   

Attitude influences both how you work and how you deal with others.  Never believe that what you do or feel towards writing is what everyone should do.  Offer help where you can, but don't lecture on 'the way to do things' and especially if that 'way' isn't really working for you. 

And me? 

Well, I'm going to go clean the kitchen. 

Then I'll be back to write.


1 comment:

Catana/Sylvie Mac said...

I wouldn't call myself a prolific writer yet, and my sales are nothing to write home about--yet. But my blog readers seem overly impressed by my production. Why is it so difficult to understand that anyone who works at developing a skill is going to become better at it over time? That includes being able to do it faster. Even if you're not trying to earn a living at it.