Ordinary vs. extraordinary

The other night as I was washing my hair and brushing my teeth and playing piano, I started thinking about being ordinary. A lot of times I get through hard or unpleasant things (like the flu, a fight with my parents, stepping in poo, etc.) by reminding myself that billions of people before me have gone through the same things and survived, so I can too. I’m a normal human being, capable of all the normal things we go through. Ordinary is good!

But wait.

I want to be extraordinary too. I want a long, successful career as an author, and as we all know (or if you don’t, I’m telling you now) the odds of that are not high. For all the Stephen Kings, Amy Tans, and JK Rowlings, there are hundreds if not thousands of unknowns sitting at their desks, typing/writing out what they believe to be The Next Great Book.

Just like there are tons of programmers who want to be the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, tons of film students who want to be the next Steven Spielberg or Ang Lee, tons of athletes who want to be the next Derek Jeter or LeBron James.

So who gets there? Who rises to the top, while the rest toil anonymously?

Think about it before you read the rest. I really do want to know your thoughts, so please leave them in a comment.

Continue reading “Ordinary vs. extraordinary”

Banish the word amateur, and give yourself insomnia

John August, the brilliant screenwriter behind Big Fish and Go (among others), said this to a graduating class of filmmakers the other day:

The one thing you won’t be is an amateur. I want you to banish that word, because you need to treat everything you do from the moment you walk out the door as a professional. This is now your job.

That means doing your best work at all times, even when it doesn’t seem to matter. You may feel like you’re not getting graded. You are. It’s just that no one is telling you what score you got.

My last piece of advice is probably the one most likely to induce insomnia. Every night when you go to bed, ask yourself: What did you do today to get closer to your goals? That’s a hard question to ask. Feel free to beat yourself up, because no one else will anymore. That’s the best and worst thing about graduating — it’s the end of the systematic evaluation of your progress.

Are you that somebody?

Note: New Twenty-Somewhere episode on Tuesday. Between my repetitive stress injury, my poopy puppy, and ABNA, it just didn’t happen today.

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Today’s post is brought to you by Aaliyah, and literary agent Nathan Bransford, who asked (and answered): “Can you query if you are an unpublished novelist and your manuscript isn’t finished yet?”

The “correct” answer is of course, no. But I can’t help wondering if the answer for somebody who is very confident, very talented, and very focused, is actually yes.

Because in theory, That Somebody could submit a good query with just an idea. And if a partial were requested from the query, That Somebody could then write the first 30 pages and submit. And if a full were requested from the partial, That Somebody could then write the rest of the manuscript and submit.

It would be rough as heck, but doable.

Then regardless of what happens, That Somebody hasn’t wasted time on an idea and/or manuscript that nobody’s interested in, because That Somebody didn’t write it until an agent was interested. And even if things don’t work out with that agent, it’s likely that another agent will be interested too, so That Somebody can keep querying (and revising in the meantime) until That Somebody gets a contract.

Of all the wannabe writers out there, probably only one in a million could do this successfully, but hey, think of all the time That Somebody could save!

Are you That Somebody?