Image via WikipediaYeah, the former Wesley Crusher just busted out a tweet of an Elizabeth Bear blog post that seriously, seriously just saved my ass. I was on the verge of chucking it. Not my life, as in life force, but my life as a writer.
The side gig has been kickin' my lazy ass of late and the day job is rounding into bizarro mutant form with actual processes and duties and a business model that relies on me pumping out Web video show scripts at a mind-numbing rate (seriously, I'm looking for willing supplicants to do similar work on the cheap; ping for details). The mangy scrap of putrid fucktard fiction I vomited all over my writers group last week was such a waste of fucking time that I was seriously contemplating shelving my lets-be-us-a-fictional-type-author aspiration for, say, a decade.
And then Elizabeth Bear, who is not only published and a mondo mega blogger but also sports stamps of approval from both Ensign Crusher and His Lord John the Scalzi goes and reminds me that, yes, it's supposed to be hard--dispshit--and that it's the hard that makes it worthy, so on and so forth. But she invokes the platitudes so well, you see. And she makes these points, that well and truly have convinced me not to go gently into that cliched, self-pitying night:
I read something somewhere that opined that the difference between garage bands and bands that break out is not musical competence, but having found their own sound. I've listened to this happen to a couple of friends' bands, and it's true, I think.See what she did there? She made this all my fault--which I already knew--but she also made overcoming it seem so very damn possible. And lo, cynical pragmatist that I am, I live for the possible. So here I be, resolving to stop second-guessing and just carve out some precious time to write my fucking fictional ass off for a change. All because I cyber-stalk Wil Wheaton's tweets and the magnificent bastard goes and lives up to his Nicest Mothefucker On Teh Internets rep.
It also applies to writers. You get stuck at that stage because you are trying to find the things that will lift you our of competence and into the next stage. And I can tell you what those things are.
One is confidence (hard, in a business where one faces constant rejection.) Confidence in the story you're telling. Confidence in your ability to tell it. That confidence is what gives a narrative drive, allows you to stop hemming and hawing and say what you mean rather than talking around it.
Another is voice. Sounding like yourself, the rhythm and swing of your rhetoric, the unique chord progressions that make this identifiably your song and not something anybody could have written.
And the interesting thing there is that that personalization--which is what's going to make people love your work--is the same thing that's going to make some people hate it. Strong opinions are what you're after. And some of those strong opinions are going to be negative.
And there's experience and technique and craft, of course, but those are all part of the competence. And mere competence isn't enough. You have to have that something extra.
Yeah, that's science fiction for ya.