Every once in a while I come across something that causes me to pause and evaluate existence. Perhaps I’m just getting to the Old-Fart age. You know, that age that people reach where they realize the younger generation are a bunch of good fer nuthin punks with their loud music and crazy hairdos. That age when your realize your thermostat must be broken because there’s no way the heat could be on 85 when the house is this cold. The age where oatmeal should be room temperature and there’s too much spice in every meal.
But no, it can’t be that. I’m far too young to be that old.
However, I am old enough to realize certain things about certain people…or types of people. And some of those things are disturbing. For instance, I was talking with a good friend today and they told me about how someone got offended because a writing group they belonged to had set a goal to work on the members’ writing weaknesses.
Did I hear a gasp of exasperation from one or more of my readers? I think I did.
Look, I get it. Everyone wants to believe they have worked hard enough and have REACHED the pinnacle of their skills. No one wants to hear that well…actually…their work could use some more work, they’re not quite there yet. I’ve been writing and in writing communities long enough to have run in to plenty of people who don’t want to hear even the faintest of whispers that there are areas they could improve upon. It’s an attitude I acknowledge exists, but haven’t the foggiest why.
Let’s face facts. Sure, not every talented person is going to get discovered. It’s on record just how many forward thinking artists have come and gone throughout history without ever becoming famous until after their deaths. Many throughout time are persecuted and pressured to give up what they love because it’s weird or strange (far too advanced for the time) so sure there’s a remote possibility that someone who thinks they’ve reached their potential is actually being pressured for no reason.
And in some alternate universe I dance and sing naked in the streets of Rome.
Is it possible? …sure. Is it likely? Nope.
I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I realize I’m just not good enough and I want to get better. I take for granted that people who participate in creative efforts feel the same way. I take for granted that anyone who is interested in any art form, be it writing, painting, sculpting, acting, dancing, will recognize what greatness is out there and then aspire to achieve it no matter how long it takes.
It takes time, patience, and tenacity to achieve goals in the creative fields. It also takes setting aside ego in a major way. Okay, pipe down…I know you need to have some ego as a writer or how else would you pitch your work, sell your brand? The truth is, if your work is that good it will sell itself.
The best writers are great because they dedicated their lives to the craft both in learning and doing. The best writers are humble in both their work and how they treat their fans and the people who help them. Those are the most memorable authors. Those are the writers that passionate newbies look up to, and those are the writers who build solid fan bases.
Writers with immense egos take shortcuts. They rely on ready made fan bases to pitch spin offs, they are kitschy and exploitative. These writers are often rude and mean spirited to people who support them. And, they’re easily forgotten once their fad fades.
This isn’t the way it should be. Writers should aspire to greatness. Writers should emulate the great writers to find bigger and better stories to which to stake their fame. And writers should always be humble in large part and ready to receive good advice to get better.
It’s not just about one person. Writing is never about one person. Original ideas might be from one person, but great stories are sculpted with many hands. So if someone is taking time from their day to dispense valuable advice on how to improve, take it with humility.
That’s my two cents at least.