Enemies of the Art Part 4—Pride
Pride is most frequently a malaise of the insecure. I suffered terribly with a pride problem for many years. On the outside, I looked like I knew it all, that I had all the right answers, but really? I didn’t know my butt from a hole in the ground, and I was terrified other people would realize this if I asked questions or admitted I didn’t know everything.
Of course, the consequence of being prideful is we aren’t teachable. Those who aren’t teachable won’t grow. Things that fail to grow long enough eventually DIE.
When I began to write fiction, I didn’t want to read craft books because I was afraid other people would think I didn’t know how to write. My first conferences? I was more focused on getting an agent than I was from learning from other more seasoned and experienced people in the industry. I should have been attending classes to teach me better ways to plot or methods to make my characters more dimensional, but I was too busy lining up to learn how to land an agent or a three-book deal.
Looking back? Yeah, I kinda want a DeLorean so I can go back in time and kick my own @$$ for being a prideful idiot.
There is No Shame in NOT Knowing
Just because we have command of our native language does not automatically mean we possess the skills necessary to write a novel. Think of it this way. Unless we are mute, we all have a voice, but just because we can “sing” doesn’t mean we can SING.
No one would fault a singer for taking voice lessons. No one would fault an actor for taking acting lessons. Yet, when it comes to writing, there is this societal assumption that, because we are literate, we have everything we need to become rock star novelists.
A Hint: The masters of our craft are always learning. NYTBSAs still read craft books, attend lectures, and read authors they feel are stronger in some area where they want to learn.
Want to know who doesn’t?
Mentors are Vital
Part of the reason I started the warriorwriters blog, was to honor my first real mentor Bob Mayer. His classes (and books) were the first time my head was crow-barred out of my derriere. And, when I finally saw LIGHT, I was grateful and a tad…mortified.
Life is short and we only have so much time to learn what we need to be successful. Mentors help shorten this learning curve tremendously. Mentors can guide us, give advice, point us to the right resources and books.
I’ve made mentors out of many people I’ve never met and perhaps never will meet—Seth Godin, Penelope Trunk, the Bloggess, and Steve Tobak to name a few. I read their blogs, their books, listen to their lectures and see what I can apply to come up higher, to do better. TED is an excellent resource.
I couldn’t do any of this when I thought I knew everything.
Two Paths to Humility
There are two paths to humility. One is The Easy Method. We submit willingly and admit we need help. Easy. Yeah.
But that would have been too “easy” for me. I needed The Meat Tenderizer Method, which is where life and failure beat the hell out of you long enough that you, the soft, bloodied mess, finally tap out and realize you maybe don’t know as much as you think you do.
One of the reasons I gave up having an on-line writing workshop is that I spent too much time arguing with people who couldn’t take correction. I simply didn’t have the energy to write 2,000 word dissertations 3 times a day about why all books need a core antagonist, why flashbacks every other paragraph were bad, and why having the cast of Ben Hur in the first 10 pages of a novel was a flawed plan. I was exhausted working with students who knew everything (and probably got a dose of how it had been working with me all those years).
Remember, minds are like parachutes. They work best when open.
Humility will take us farther faster. When we’re humble, we’re open to mentors, to learning new things, to trying other ways. I see a lot of writers who rush out to publish before they are ready instead of listening to the 42 people who told them the book wasn’t yet marketable and needed work.
When they then get the one-star reviews, they want to report the reviewers instead of realizing, they published before the book was ready, before THEY were ready. This author all too often fails to see the real problem and markets more and
spams tweets more and pays big bucks for SEO gurus to improve their web site because it couldn’t possibly be they don’t know how to write novels.
Again. Easy Way or Meat Tenderizer Way? We all have a choice. But take it from the person with meat tenderizer scars on her forehead. Easy Way is easier. Shocking, but true. The writing community is VERY generous. James Scott Bell, Candy Havens, Les Edgerton, Shirley Jump are all heroes of mine and they are so kind, thoughtful and liberal with praise and guidance. Please seek them out (they are all instructors at WANA International). Remember that true artists are always learning and looking for ways to grow stronger.
What are your thoughts? Do you have meat tenderizer scars, too? Or were you smart and quickly took the easy way? Who are some mentors who’ve helped you? How did you grow? What was your experience?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.