Onward and Upward

Being a writer is hard.

Heck, being any kind of artist is hard.  Writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, composing or playing music, dancing, costuming, the performing arts…all of these and a few I haven’t listed require time, training, and serious dedication to master.  Some people have inborn talent that lets them pick up art forms more easily than others.  Some appear to be good at everything with no effort at all.  But that lack of effort is an illusion and I’d say that 99% of any master who makes the work they do look easy have paid their tithe of blood, sweat, and tears.

While talent may give you an edge in some fields, most of it is acquired through long, careful study and vigorous practice.  No matter how much talent Nature has gifted you, if you don’t expand and refine that gift, it will go to waste or never reach its full potential.  Thanks to my mother’s side of the family, I have a decent amount of inborn talent for drawing and painting.  It’s not genius level, but I look and approach things from an artist’s point of view and can draw decently without a whole lot of training.  However, I could be a really good artist if I put my mind to it.

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To Write, You Must Read

One of the greatest and most basic rules of thumb in the world of writing is: “Write a story you would want to read.”
The next question is, “What kinds of stories do you enjoy reading?”
Once you’ve answered these two questions, your journey into the realm of writing has begun. And yet, so many writers seem to forget these basic questions. Too many get caught up what they think other people want them to write, or what other people want to read, or what kind of story formula will guarantee sales that will make them a multi-million-dollar success. If you start coming at stories from that angle these days, you are only sabotaging your own efforts. Your readers can tell when a story has heart and when it was written with calculation designed to draw them in. To an extent, every writer is trying to pull readers in, but the difference is this: are you trying to hook them because you think you have a good story to tell? Or are you trying to hook them for the money and popularity?

The Power of Names

Names have power.  This is something that seems to have diminished in importance in our modern world, fading from our consciousness.  And yet, names still hold some of their ancient power.  Parents spend months choosing “the perfect name” for their new baby, we observe pets for certain idiosyncratic behaviors that will tell us the best name for them (or they exhibit traits associated with the name we choose), and teens agonize over the screen name that will best reflect their “true self.”

In ancient times, names held the power to control.  To know the innermost, “true” name of a thing was to have ultimate power over that thing.  Wizards were keepers of names and the more true names they knew, the more powerful they were.  Giving someone your true name was the ultimate sign of trust, giving that person power over you…if they so chose.  While we do not attach the same beliefs or significance to names anymore, there is still something mystical about choosing a name.

With such care given to choosing names for pets, children, and online personas, it stands to reason that the same care should be given when choosing names for one’s characters.  After all, are they not the children of our minds, our hidden desires and idealized personas given flesh?  Many authors have said that their characters do not feel real or alive until they have been given the perfect name.

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Pros and Cons of Writing Groups

I personally don’t have much experience with writing groups.  I’ve never officially joined one and find the idea of doing so unappealing and intimidating.  It’s hard enough for me to share portions of my work with close friends, let alone near-strangers, especially since I am not good at summaries.  I’m sure a few readers will think, “Well, if you don’t try to get to know them, of course they’ll remain near-strangers and you’ll never feel comfortable sharing your work.”  True.  But I would rather gravitate towards friends who already like to talk about writing and slowly create a group that way.

The success or failure of a writing group really depends on the people in it.  If you are in a group that has people you trust who will give you honest, solid feedback, then I think you’ll have fun and improve your writing.  But if the others in your group don’t give good feedback and are not decent writers themselves, then neither you nor your writing will have much fun.  Some writing groups do weekly or monthly writing assignments or exercises for their members to participate in, and if that’s something you and your fellow writers are interested in, go for it.  However, don’t get so bogged down in exercises and “being a writer” that you forget to have fun.

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