Monday, April 1, 2013

86 Things I've Said on Twitter, Part 4

After a pause last week (lots of things going on, blogging got pushed so far down the schedule), we resume the series of 86 Things I've Said on Twitter. Part 3 is here.

Guess what? You can talk to an editor ANY time during your creative process to help steer you through tricky sections and past blocks.

There's this thought travelling around that editors are who you talk to AFTER you write, as if we're summoned from the ether when all the words are still cooling on the page. And as we've talked about elsewhere, that's still where an editor gets used. But, there's ZERO reason to think that you can't talk to editor WHILE you're writing. We can steer the writing past the problems, we can help you learn new strategies to overcome bad habits, we can help make the writing better *as* it happens. That is, if you let us. 

Get a healthy supportive network of people around you and creating what you love never feels like a JOB.

I love what I do. There's a reason why I so frequently use the #livingthedream hashtag on social media (and this blog). It never feels like a job. Sure, I make a living doing all the editing, developing, creating and consulting, but it's not a go-to-a-cubicle-farm-and-file-TPS-reports-and-listen-to-my-soul-die job. It's my lifestyle, expressed through actions. It's just what I do, and the reason I can enjoy so much of it is because I have around me the most amazing support system of friends and family (and friends as family) who support me and who care about what I'm doing and who want to hear about it. 

Disclosure: A lot of my support system does the same sort of work, so we can often and easily talk about the work and how best to accomplish it, but the point stands - we're all in this creative endeavor together. 

Now if you're thinking to yourself, "How do I build this? How do I get a support structure?", start by being honest with yourself. You have to be your biggest fan. (And I can say this because it's something I'm still working on) From there, you have to engage other people, telling them that your writing is important to you (no, it doesn't have to be a career, unless you want it to be) and getting them excited too. You'll be able to weed out the people who will support you from those who scoff based on whether or not they get excited and encouraging. Take the good ones, don't sweat the bad ones, whoever they might be. 

Hey, how long were you planning on only just talking about making your thing? Do you think it's going to create itself?

There two Johns: The John who talks a lot of about doing things, and the John who does them. Talking-John has a lot of big ideas and big hopes and dreams but never gets around to making them happen, because doing things is scary and because (he thinks) that talking about them is far more fun than doing them. Talking-John is a shitty coward. He doesn't take any risks, he doesn't expose himself as vulnerable or human, he doesn't try. 

Action-John (now with kung-fu grip) is newer to the scene, for a while he was just the shunted-off, pushed-into-the-corner voice that started sentences with "I hope..." He wanted to take action, but was too scared. Too scared to fail. Too scared to get a negative response, thinking that it was a reflection on who he was, and that if he failed, everyone would hate him. But then the fear became smaller, or maybe the drive to do things became bigger, and he started doing things. Big things, the things Talking-John always said would happen. Sure some things stumbled out of the gate (see: TWO people at the first Pay What You Want Seminar), but then there's a whole stack of things that took off like a shot right out of the gate. (So many games!)

Talking is good, but Action, though scary or hard or uncertain is better. The things you want to do won't do themselves, you need to be creating them. They're *your* things, so get out there and make them happen.

Rejection sucks. But it only stops you if you let it. Also, the rejecter is just ONE person - plenty of ways to accomplish your goals.

Ahh rejection letters. The kryptonite of writers. The scourge of creatives. 

Hey. It's a piece of paper. Or an email. Or one person's words to you. ONE person. And they might not even know you. 

Not everyone is going to reject your work. And that's what you should remember - they're rejecting your work, not you as a person, a parent, a spouse, a partner, a friend, a whatever-else-you-might-be. And if you want to split hairs, they might not even be rejecting the work itself, they're just rejecting how you introduced the work (your query).

It's not about what number rejection you're on - a lot of talk is about how many times a particular book was rejected - it matters what you do AFTER you get rejected. I'm not saying you can't be upset. I'm not saying you can't eat ice cream out of the carton and sit on the couch in your bathrobe and watch episodes of old TV on Netflix. (by the way, Coldstone Creamery totally knows how to ease I've heard)

If you get rejected by one agent or publisher, there are others. Loads of others. Or you can go a different route. It's up to you. You're in charge. 

Not everyone is going to love what you create. Do you love it? That's the starting point. If you don't, who will?

I'll keep this one short -- You have to love what you do. Otherwise, why are you doing it? If you're not happy making the thing(s) you're making, what can you do to make yourself happy, and how can you change  your situation around?

Other people aren't going to like it. That's okay. Your job is not to please everyone. Your job is to please yourself and make awesome things. 

Do not ever, ever, ever let anyone at conference/convention/whatever-event make you feel guilty for loving what you do.

One of my good and dear friends speaks quite well (and extensively) about women in gaming. Recently, she was at PAX (a big video game/gaming convention) and the panel she was on took a LOT of flak for her being "big" or for the panelists being lesbians or for them being "feminazis" - basically a huge swarm of adolescents got together and got quite aggressive with these women (emailing them rapey death threats, being otherwise angry and mean to them).

That's upsetting. There's plenty of room for everyone at the creative table, no matter who they are, what they are, what they believe in or what they make. Just because *you* disagree (however intensely) with what people make or who they are doesn't make the other person "wrong". 

I have been on panels, attended conferences and conventions where the speaker addressing the audience just shot down people. Giving malicious advice. Throwing around a lot of shame. Throwing around tons of guilt. 

Yes, there are going to be people, even people who are supposed to know better, who are going to make you feel guilty for who you are, what you love and doing whatever you do. I'm not telling you this because I want you to rage against them, or to set you on the defensive, I'm telling you because you don't have to be guilty. You don't have to be afraid of being a whatever/whoever-you-are and doing/making whatever you make. 

Sure, some people are going to rail against you because they're idiots. Or bigots. Or sexists. Or other '-ist's. 

Other people are going to shout you down because if you're not in the picture, you're not competing with them for what they perceive to be finite resources. (Newsflash - there's never going to be a shortage of awesome)

Do not give these voices any mental real estate. They're not accurate, and not an accurate representation of anything other than hate-speech and close-mindedness. 

If there's a #1 tool in your toolbox as a writer, let it be discipline. To do the work, to endure rejection, to keep believing.

Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. And it's not like you're forever at mile 1. It takes time to make things, to do the best job you can, and there are a lot of distractions out there. And those distractions can really pull you away from getting things done. (Hey look, an Xbox! Hey look, a relationship! Hey look, nachos!)

Discipline is what makes things go. The ability to park my butt in this comfy office chair and do the writing and thinking allows me to go out with that relationship, allows me to buy new Xbox games and afford nacho supplies. 

Discipline also weathers me against rejection. Keep running the marathon. Keep believing down to a sub-atomic level that I'm on the right path for me. That I can do this, that I'm good enough. 

Writers, if things aren't working out, you can totally fire the people you've hired. If you've been hired, you can totally fire clients.

There's a great George Carlin bit about getting pulled over and telling the cop that they're a public servant, so as a taxpayer, you pay their salary. And while that's comedy and exaggerated, there's a truth in there - you can fire the people you retain if they're not working out. 

Have a bad experience with an agent or editor? You don't need to keep that relationship. Yes, you can get a new one. It may be embarrassing or awkward or a tough thing to do, but it may also be the right thing to do, if the dynamic isn't what you hoped for and despite your best efforts it's not getting you what you want. 

Likewise, if you've been hired by someone and it's just not going well (you're butting heads, arguing, they're not listening to the advice they came to you for, etc), you can fire them. Yes, a client can be fired. Ending that relationship works both ways. 

It's not fun (I've only done it twice in the past few years), but in order to preserve your sanity, salvage your work or get through the day without huge anxiety and stress, it might be just the thing that needs to happen. 

Just do it fairly, honestly and openly. Don't beat around the bush and don't be a jerk. 

Sure there's an element of "luck" in success, but there's far more hard work, perseverance and discipline involved.

How did Author X (insert "named" author here) get to the place they're at? How did this book or that one sell tens of bajillions of copies? 

Luck played a part in it, that the right person came along at the right moment and took a chance on making the book happen. But it wasn't all luck. The manuscript had to be in some semblance of good order or interesting for someone to say "Let's make this a thing". (Granted, this does sometimes mean that you may be sending your work to be looked at by idiots and not-the-best people, but that's for another post) 

What you're not seeing in this process, what we don't know firsthand and can only assume is how hard the author worked to get the manuscript to the point where someone could come along and help make it a reality. We're not seeing the number of hours spent writing, the late nights, the arguments with people about how the book should go or when it'll be done. We're not seeing the person writing during their lunch breaks and after the kids are in bed. We don't get to see the construction process, we only see it once it's built. 

Work hard, be passionate, be disciplined, and you'll find that luck is on your side. 

Or you can make your own luck. Remember, you're in charge.

If someone is helping you with your project (and their help is actually good) THANK THEM. Recognize their good work.

A book is likely not a solo effort. Lots of other people helped you get this book into shape and out the door. Your agent got you the deal. Your editor helped work out the story's problems. Your friends read the drafts. Your writing group gave you ideas. Your parents conceived you, so that you could write this book. 

Sure, as an author you get the spotlight more than the others. Which is great, your hard work should be recognized. But not at the expense or ignorance of the other people who helped. Share the spotlight. Let other people feel as good as you do. Maybe other people who want to be in the position your in can benefit from your example (and by extension benefit from the same help you got), so by calling out who helped you, everyone wins. 

This also includes paying them fairly and on time.

Last bit of the day. If you hired someone to help you, pay them. Pay them what you owe them. Pay them when you say you're going to. Yeah, I know, money's tight and it's a rough economy, but honor your arrangements. Yes, we love to help you make the things you want to make, but this is still our livelihood. It's not too much to ask that someone owed money receives that money. 

Don't be the person who doesn't pay. Word will spread, and not necessarily good word. If paying people is tough, then at least do them the courtesy of being up front about it. Let them know what to expect. That way everyone knows where everyone else stands. 

More to come later in the week.