Kristan Hoffman - Writing Dreams Into Reality
Wed Jan 11 2012

Writerly Wednesday

This morning completely went out the window because I had to finish reading The Night Circus. Normally I’m not one for “luxurious” (i.e., slow and descriptive) books, but this one was magic, truly. I’m so glad I was patient with it.

Speaking of patience…

“25 Things Writers Should Stop Doing (Right F—ing Now)” by Chuck Wendig

The rise of self-publishing has seen a comparative surge forward in quantity. As if we’re all rushing forward to squat out as huge a litter of squalling word-babies as our fragile penmonkey uteruses (uteri?) can handle. Stories are like wine; they need time. So take the time. This isn’t a hot dog eating contest. You’re not being judged on how much you write but rather, how well you do it. Sure, there’s a balance — you have to be generative, have to be swimming forward lest you sink like a stone and find remora fish mating inside your rectum. But generation and creativity should not come at the cost of quality. Give your stories and your career the time and patience it needs.

That’s #5 on the list. The others that particularly spoke to me were #7, 14, and 15. (Thanks goes to Ben L.J. Brooks for tweeting this.)

“It Looked Good On Paper” by Boys Don’t Read

It took me more time than most (20+ years) to realize life doesn’t always conduct itself by the rules of the The Hero’s Journey, or confine itself to Syd Field’s three act structure. That these predetermined pillars of climax – Valentine’s Day, the senior prom, the first kiss – aren’t necessarily anchored to anything meaningful, and when they are, they tend to pale against the sparkling ruler of Hollywood…

In my life, I’ve made peace with this. Mostly. But it’s a battle I fight every day in my writing.

Once again Jeff and the BDR crew make it on my list, due to their potent mix of humor, insight, and real-life resonance. I have a feeling you may see them here often.

“When You’re Bad at Something” by Natalie Whipple

I can’t tell you that if you work harder than anyone else you’ll be on top. If that were true, I would be way further ahead than I am. But alas, I’m still up against some people who have honest-to-goodness talent. It’s hard to deal with sometimes. I won’t lie and say I’m totally fine when someone who has put in half the work and time I have gets twice the reward I do. It’s hard to accept — important to accept — but hard.

But on the flip side, there are some comforts in all this sucking at stuff. For one, I do believe with all my heart that anyone can improve in something if they want to. It doesn’t matter what it is — you can go after it and do it well. It might take twice as long. You may never be as good as a prodigy. But you as a human being have the potential to succeed. It is part of all of us.

I’m not sure where I fall on the Talent vs. Hard Work range. They’re not even opposite ends of the same spectrum, are they? Regardless, this post was a great reminder that just because something doesn’t come easily doesn’t mean it will never come.

Patience. Again, it seems to be the key.

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14 Comments
  1. T. S. Bazelli says:
    Wed Jan 11 2012 at 12:54 PM

    Great links as usual Kristan ;) Why does it always come down to patience and hard work? I want the easy route dammit! LOL Well ok, no, there’s no magic solution.

  2. Les says:
    Wed Jan 11 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Potent advice! Glad you dig this stuff up so I don’t have to haha.

  3. Jon says:
    Wed Jan 11 2012 at 4:20 PM

    Great advice. And just remember, the kids who get the book contract at 21 rarely last that long. It’s the sluggers that make careers, not the flashy flavors of the month.

  4. Shari says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 10:09 AM

    You know, if I had to choose only one word to describe the publication side of this journey, patience would be it. Query, query, query … wait, wait, wait – and then it obviously must continue as the process goes on. Sometimes it’s so tough to stay in the moment and not look forward to the future, but it can be so important, too. Because the word to describe this part of the journey for us is inspiring – and, as always, your blog posts do just that :)

    Also – adding THE NIGHT CIRCUS to my reading list now! Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Sonje says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 10:11 AM

    RE: the Natalie Whipple quote

    I think this is a good example of getting confused about the distinction between creating something good and getting that thing recognized as being good. These are not the same thing. Once you equate the value of something creative with “rewards,” you’ll likely want to shake your fist at the sky–and then want to beat yourself up for doing it.

  6. Juliann Wetz says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 12:00 PM

    My mom is reading ‘The Night Circus,’ too, and is loving it.

    I can’t say I agree with Natalie’s remark at all. She sounds a little like the negative people at work who are sure that others aren’t possible working as hard as they are.

    And you’re absolutely right: hard work and talent aren’t two opposite ends of the spectrum at all.

  7. Kristan says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 12:06 PM

    T.S.-
    If you find the easy route, let me know! I want to go with you, lol.

    Les-
    Yep, hehe, that’s the point. I read so you don’t have to! ;)

    Jon-
    That’s kind of what I figure/tell myself too. Not that I wish any of them ill, but succeeding early doesn’t necessarily mean succeeding long-term.

    Sonje and Juliann-
    Hm, I may have done Natalie a disservice in excerpting her post the way I did. It’s definitely not negative — she’s a very inspiring, bright-side kind of person. I think her post as a whole is not about knocking people with talent, but rather about reminding people (who AREN’T naturally talented) that it isn’t the only tool to success.

    (And yes, Sonje, her post is definitely geared towards people writing for publication, not just people who are writing for fun.)

  8. Sonje says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Whether or not you’re writing for publication or for fun, judging your book by what it “accomplishes” is setting yourself up for crazy time for the simple reason that it doesn’t equate. It’s like running around saying, “4 is the same thing as A! 4 is the same thing as A!”

    I think we can all agree that we’ve read (or tried to read but could not keep going) plenty of books that have been published and are total crap. Being published has little to do with whether or not your book is a good one.

  9. Kristan says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 2:29 PM

    Um, I’m not sure I agree. (Or even understand the A vs. 4 thing, lol.)

    People can have standards for their work even if they’re writing for fun vs. for an external measure/goal. And just because you do something and enjoy it (the process and/or the end product) doesn’t necessarily make it “good.” I like singing, but I sure as hell am not good at it. Do I wish I had a naturally good voice? Absolutely. But I don’t. Natalie’s post is just saying that, if I really wanted to, I could learn how to sing well within my range.

  10. Sonje says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 6:31 PM

    A = 4 is like saying that reaping the rewards of publishing = the book is a good book. These are the not same things. And of course a person can enjoy writing a bad book. I’m not saying that because you have fun you will write a good book. I am saying that you can write a good book that never gets published–or does get published and isn’t successful (i.e. makes a lot of money)–and that does not mean that it isn’t a good book. How good or bad a book is doesn’t seem to have much to do with whether or not it gets published–or how well it does if it gets published–and I feel confident saying that because I’ve read (or tried to read) a lot of books that have been published, even that are best sellers, and are complete crap.

    I’m not going to write any more! Promise! Blog hijack is over! :)

  11. Kristan says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 6:37 PM

    Ah. A/4 makes sense now. But I think you’re arguing a moot point. Natalie wasn’t saying a book has to be published to be good.

  12. Anthony Lee Collins says:
    Thu Jan 12 2012 at 7:20 PM

    On the quantity/quality thing, I agree (though the paragraph you quoted had about fifteen more metaphors than it needed :-) ).

    A book takes however long it takes, which is different for different writers and for different books. And, as my current blog post describes, some self-published/indie books _really_ need more editing and proofing.

    Statistics tell us that it takes me fifteen years to write a novel. I’m starting a new project now. If that also takes fifteen years to get it right, that’s cool. But it will be right when it’s done, or at least as good as I can possibly make it.

  13. Kristan says:
    Fri Jan 13 2012 at 4:33 PM

    LOL I believe Chuck Wendig is a master of hyperbole if nothing else.

    That’s a great attitude, Anthony, and one I’m learning to embrace. Now if only my parents could, too… :P

  14. Vernon says:
    Mon Jan 16 2012 at 10:35 AM

    They say that patience is a virtue. I believe that everything will always come in time if you deserve it. Nice quotes by the way.

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