January 20, 2012

How to be Miserable …

Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, On Writing tagged , , , , , , at 9:21 am by Michelle K.

I recently read a list on Facebook – “How to be Miserable as an Artist”. I don’t know the original author of the post, and I can’t give credit where it’s due. But I do appreciate that so many people have shared it, because it really hit home. And at the risk of infringing on someone else’s copyright (take THAT, SOPA!), I thought I’d publish it here, as well.

  1. Constantly compare yourself to other artists.
  2. Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on.
  3. Base the success of your entire career on one project.
  4. Stick with what you know.
  5. Undervalue your expertise.
  6. Let money dictate what you do.
  7. Bow to societal pressures.
  8. Only do work that your family would love.
  9. Do whatever the client/customers/gallery owner/patron/investor/*fan* asks. (I added that last one)
  10. Set unachievable/overwhelming goals, to be accomplished tomorrow.

The two most important lessons in this list – for me – are #1 and #10. I find that when I’m feeling the pressure … when the muse refuses to cooperate and all I produce is absolutely craptastic, I start comparing my work to other writers and identifying all the places where I’ve gone wrong. Why didn’t I come up with that turn of phrase? Why don’t I see the world that way? How did I miss this, that, or the other?  There is nothing worse for your self esteem than to compare your work with others’ and berate yourself for being somehow … less … than they are.

I’m pretty lucky. I’m part of a group of fantastic writers who create within the same genre. I’m always learning from them. I’m always inspired by them. I get fantastic support, incredibly helpful editorial advice, and the belief that no matter how long it takes, I will get it done. But there are times when I have to remind myself that these amazing writers go through the same struggles as I: sometimes, inspiration just hits … and sometimes – often – they have to work for it. Instead of comparing myself to them, instead of identifying all the places where I fall short, I can look at the work of these artists and think, “Wow. I want to work harder. I want to do better. I want to feel about my work the way I feel about theirs.” And you know what? Eventually, I do. When I produce something I’m genuinely proud of, I know what it’s like to not be miserable. So … lesson learned. Use other artists as inspiring examples … but never compare yourself to them. Never try to be like them. Your art is yours. You are unique and different, and your voice deserves to be heard.

And that brings me to #10, which I’m pretty sure has plagued me since the day I started this blog (possibly before). Avoid setting goals that are unrealistic, unachievable, overwhelming … and expecting them to be done tomorrow. Life gets in the way. Careers matter, and bills, and kids, and spouses, and pets. Your commitments are important, and if you allow yourself to be derailed every time something else needs your attention, you’ll only beat yourself up when you don’t accomplish what you set out to do.

I’ve been working on the same story for almost four years (egads! FOUR YEARS!) … and so many times, I’ve had to step back because what was going on in the rest of my life took up my time, my fuel, my creative energy. I’m still working on this lesson, and many days it’s a major struggle. But it’s necessary to remember that, ultimately, we’re not creating for other people. When we start to do what others want or expect, when we produce for them instead of for ourselves … we lose sight of why we started in the first place. So what if it takes four months to write a craptastic chapter? And what if it takes another two or three months to turn into something wonderful? Well then, so be it!  Don’t set unreasonable deadlines. Let the muse guide you. (I say this with a sheepish hint of irony, given that I set a New Year’s resolution to finish my story by year-end).

When all is said and done, the only pressure we artists really need to listen to is the one that comes from within … from the voice that says, “Make the time. Trudge ahead. Don’t give up. Keep practicing.”

So keep at it, friends. However long it takes. The work will always be there – it’s up to you to decide how you’ll approach it. Just remember to have fun with it! Laugh a little! Give the muse a good beating now and then! But never … NEVER … make yourself miserable doing it. If you’re miserable … then what’s the point?

Happy New Year!

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February 17, 2009

Gimme the 65, I’m on the job. Woohoo!

Posted in On Writing tagged , , , , at 8:20 pm by Michelle K.

I can’t believe it … I really can’t.  And yet, the reality sits before me.  I’m shocked. Dumbfounded.  Utterly amazed.  Why, you ask?

Chapter 17 is finally finished!  Hooray!

Do you have any idea how big this is?  Well, maybe you do, if you’ve been following my angst for the past two months.  It was the bane of my existence, my friends.  The weight I thought was permanently attached to my shoulders.  The chapter FROM HELL.

DAH-DAH-DAH-DAAAAHHHHHHH!

Okay, so knowing me, it will most likely go through another one hundred revisions, but hey … I refuse to rain on my own parade.  The bulk of the writing is done, and I feel liberated!

And what of #18, you ask?

My trusty little digital voice recorder is keeping all sorts of secrets …

January 27, 2009

Fear is the mind-killer.

Posted in On Writing tagged , , , , at 9:14 pm by Michelle K.

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

(Litany against fear – Frank Herbert’s Dune)

In just under two weeks, I will – much to my astonishment – publish a preview of my work-in-progress during the Winterfest Online 2009 event.  I can’t believe I’m planning to do it.  I can’t even believe I considered it in the first place.  But there it is.  Chapter 1.  The big kahuna.  The great poobah.

Some of you may recall a post many months back when I asked for your input about sharing works-in-progress.  Some said it was a great idea, others had mixed feelings … I most decidedly was against it, myself.  My internal critic railed at the possibility … threw loud and disturbing tantrums in my head.  “NO WAY!” it yelled.

And yet, here I am, about to take that leap into the unknown.  What was it Defoe said?  Ah yes:  Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself.

I suppose I should thank my two greatest supporters/fellow writers/editors extraordinaire for encouraging me to step outside my comfort zone … to take a chance.  I do thank them, with great enthusiasm … even as, with the same enthusiasm, I shake my head and question their sanity … as well as my own.  Seriously … my internal critic just can’t handle this.  It’s like driving the car off the lot before the brakes are installed.  Or walking into -30 temps without your shoes.  Hell, it’s like serving the appetizer before you’ve even shopped for the main course.  Get my meaning here?  It’s not finished!

I don’t know what on earth has convinced me I must do this, but there it is.  A bit of encouragement … perhaps a little stroke to my writer’s ego (which I admit has been suffering since chapter 17 first reared its ugly head)and voila!  I go and commit.

I think I’d rather be committed.

No point wishing now.  I’m sure one day the institution will welcome me with open arms.  In the meantime, I’ll just have to feel the fear … and do it anyway.  Face the risk of failure.  Put it out there … and pray they don’t hate it.  You never know … I might even post it here, and give you the chance to point and laugh, too.

Hey man … if you’re going to go, you might as well go all the way.

November 12, 2008

Works in Progress?

Posted in On Writing tagged , , at 12:12 pm by Michelle K.

So to my few regular readers out there, I wanted to pose a … question? Idea? I have a very dear friend – also a magnificent writer – who posts works in progress on her blog.  I don’t post unfinished works. I have a hang up about it … an aversion … a knot in the pit of my stomach that tightens every time I even consider sharing something that is not up to my standard of “perfection”.

But this friend of mine has found it quite useful. She receives feedback that helps her improve the writing, tighten it up, question characters’ motives. And she has garnered a fan following on her blog – readers who love to follow her writing process, who enjoy keeping up with her revisions.

So I thought I’d pose the question to other writers.  Where do you stand?  Do you share your works in progress with other readers and writers?  Do you find it helps or hinders your progress?

And I want to pose the question to other readers … particularly readers of fan fiction, since that is primarily what I would be posting.  What do you think?  Would you want to read a story while it was still being written?  Follow the edits?  Support the writer and offer encouragement?

Please respond by posting a comment.  I want to hear from you!

And just one more note … I will be changing the format of this blog going forward.  These essay-length entries are weighing too heavily on my shoulders, and I’m afraid if I hold myself to that level of “excellence” (whatever that means), I’ll hardly ever post.  It feels too much like homework.  And I left graduate school for a reason!

SO … expect more snippets going forward.  Lots of them.  Inspiring ideas, poetry that intrigues me, photos and research and other things that fire up my muse.  And PLEASE post comments: What’s working for you?  What isn’t?  Do you have an idea you’d like to try, something other writers might enjoy?  I want feedback!

Okay, so that’s it.  Not a particularly … poetic … blog entry, but hopefully you get the point.  And if you’d like, check out the new links I’ve added in the right-hand menu.  They’re available for your enjoyment!