Saturday, August 30, 2014

12 Things I Have Learned About Writing

  1. It’s hard. I mean really hard. Like it makes you want to bang your head on your desk until your desk cracks. It makes you want to tear your skin off. It makes you want to run screaming from the room, running with the speed of a well-drugged baboon. And that’s on a good day.

  2. Your perspective is everything. This cannot be understated. Understood properly—your perspective is the only thing that you have in this world. It isn’t right, it isn’t wrong—it’s just yours.

  3. Because of point two, you are in a unique position to comment on the world, and any of its contents. Because of point two, your perspective matters. Besides your perspective on things, the only other things you’ve encountered in this world are other people’s perspectives. It is a total democracy—no one’s perspective matters more than anyone else’s*.

  4. *Oh, about that last sentence of point #3: It is true—to a point. It's true that no one has more or less of a right to their perspective than you, but not all perspectives are created equal. It is your perspective, do what you want with it. But if no one wants to listen, that's probably your fault. We are finite beings, we cannot laze about at the pool and leisurely drink in the perspectives of others. We have to make tough choices; we have to be discerning. 

  5. So keep it interesting. Say something different. I can't tell you how many things I read that have been said a thousand times. Why waste your breath? Now, one of my favorite phrases is "there is nothing new under the sun." It's all been said and done before. A thousand times. But because of your perspective, you have the option to make it unique. Yes it's been said a thousand times, but you can make it new.

  6. Steal. It's ok, just do it. Not the whole bloody thing, word for word, that's plagiary, you idiot. Steal the image, steal the phrase, steal the feeling it made you feel and try to plug it into what you're doing.

  7. We need help. I don't know how other writers do it without bouncing their ideas, if not their very words, off of a trusted friend or two. Many do not do this, don't seem to need it—but I hate them and they have probably consorted with beings of darkness to obtain such talent. 

  8. Another way I get help is reading about other artists and writers talking about their own process of writing. Read people who are honest, and this will help you to be more honest. More honesty means better writing. More honesty means a better life.

  9. You don't have time to wait for inspiration. Sit at your cold desk, hate yourself if you must, and just start moving your pen. Cry. Hate yourself more. Berate yourself, even though you shouldn't berate yourself, if that's what it takes to stay seated. Produce something shitty. Slink away from your desk. Hope for a better day tomorrow.

  10. You don't have time to wait for inspiration. To quote a great sage of our time, "You're gonna go out there and grab [inspiration] by the tail, and wrap it around, pull it down and put it in your pocket." Your muse is a tease. She's like a bad dog: she doesn't respond to your commands, is selective with her love, and is, on the whole, quite unreliable. 

  11. Every artist is unique. There is no one way to do it. It took me a long time to understand this. I would read about other writers, or read other writers, and try to decide which one I would be, or which one I would most be like. I did this so that I could learn how I was supposed to be. There is no such thing. I am a combination of many styles, but I am my own. Oh, sure, I wish I was someone else. I would rather be John Updike, Stephen King, Mark Twain, Robert Capon, CS Lewis, Joseph Heller. But when I was born I was saddled with the moniker of "Jason DesLongchamp." So right out of the gate my options of who I was going to be were narrowed down to a pathway of only one. I imagine you had a similar experience.

  12. You can't wait to get it right. This is my biggest, and ongoing, writerly sin. It has to be perfect. I have to be factually, grammatically, politically, logically, socially, theologically, and actually correct. Yes, these are nice things to be. But you will drive yourself insane (take it from me, an authority on the matter) trying to connect all these dots, jump through these hoops, and line up these crooked sticks. Just say what you've got. If no one listens, fix it. If no one listens still, junk it. Come up with something else. But don't belabor it to the point where you don't allow it the light of day, for fear of being in some way wrong. You will be wrong, in some way—no way around that. A fate worse than being wrong is being nothing. 

If you share nothing then that is exactly what you have given the world.

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