3.23.2012

Succeeding Means Believing in Yourself: Part 1

Believing in yourself, your creativity, your art, anything that you do, is paramount to your success. This is the first in a series of blogs I'll be writing this year about choosing belief over doubt. Believing in yourself, in your dreams and goals is necessary to your success, no matter what your art form or work industry. I'm a writer, so in this first blog I'll be using some examples of how well-meaning advice can derail the creative artist with external distraction and also lead to self-sabotage. 
Here's a memorized mantra I hear from traditionally published authors quite frequently: 

You must be familiar with everything that's written in your genre or subgenre if you want to get published.
That's rather black and white. Anything said in absolutes immediately raises a red flag and makes my BS meter peg off the scale. It also makes me want to hiss back in my most menacing Darth Vader voice, "I find your lack of faith disturbing!" 
Whether you are published or not, I suggest extreme caution if you find yourself caught up in the idea that you are somehow going to go unpublished if you don't keep up with absolutely everything currently available in your niche. The first story I sold was a short erotica piece. I had read less erotica by far than any other niche at that time. That begs the question: Do you really believe that outside influences are more important than your internal direction or your muse? In the current state of publishing, this rule which used to be part of the roadmap to traditional publishing is now parochial. Certainly you should not be ignorant of what is available to the readers in your genre, but neither should you read everything or even half of what's out there unless you have oodles of time on your hands ... you'd never get anything done! And if you spend all your time reading, it's likely you won't be writing enough to improve your craft ... unless you’re speed reading. And never mind having the time to produce enough product to make a go of writing as a paying business! And it is a business. Anything you love doing, but which you want to make money at, now or in the future, must be treated as a business.
From a craft perspective there are some real dangers to reading work that is too similar to yours: The line can blur regarding where you get an idea or a particular detail (did you think up that character mannerism or that cool plot twist yourself, or was it something you read last year?) If you read too much of other writers works, you are less likely to come up with your own very unique bent on certain story lines because you're subconscious mind and your muse will fill in the gaps of curiosity ... the gaps your conscious mind creates when external input is not constantly streaming in. Why is that important?
Because like it or not, no matter the trope, most of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey  is mirrored in every book, movie and video game that we produce as a species. This is why the Hollywood studios make all their screenwriters use Campbell's work. (Interested writers can see Christopher Vogler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY for more).

There is really nothing new under the sun as far as storytelling goes. But what is new is your specific twist and your unique retelling of archetypal tales that have been with us since the dawn of language development. It's true that some of our creative inspiration naturally comes from the books we read. But I notice that I tend to gain as much input from movies and video games as I do from reading other authors' work. Stories and ideas are everywhere!
Perhaps most important, if you over-read in your own niche, you can get very discouraged. You can start to wonder whether readers will like so-and-so’s work better than yours. You'll start thinking, "Do I really have a chance to distinguish myself among that group?" and "Why bother even finishing this book?" etc.

Several successful authors have told me over the last few years that you must believe in yourself, in your writing: no matter what.  If you are a writer, you have to believe in the uniqueness of your work, your viewpoint, your voice. But no matter what creative art or work you do in your life or are striving to make a living at, you must believe in yourself. No one can bring your vision into the world in quite the same way as you. So don't deprive the world of your contribution by giving up on your work. Don't allow someone else's constraints to sabotage your thinking and your creativity!
Write! Create! Do! ... and don’t let distractions, doubts or haters deter you. If you are writing, don't dilute your passion and your energy by reading too much within your own genre and letting other writer's voices make you question or discard your own. If you do, you'll rob your readers of the most essential thing you can give them: emotion on the page! And art, in all it's forms, is all about emotion.
Wishing you all that's green,
Roxy

2 comments:

  1. It's probably not even possible to read everything, even in a sub-genre.

    It's important to know what the tropes of a genre are, I think, so you know if you're embracing a cliche that you think is original.(Though actually, doing so hasn't hurt the success of several big name authors.) But beyond that, I don't think you have to read EVERYTHING in a genre. I enjoy reading romance and fantasy, but it's not possible to keep up with it all.

    I find I don't read much that is very similar to what I write. I had doubts that I wasn't "doing it right" for a while, because what I wrote didn't have vampires and werewolves in it, but I got over that. I'm writing what I like, and I'm having fun.

    Life is too short to wear shoes that don't fit.

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    1. Thanks for commenting, Frankie. I agree. Life is too short not to do what you love or to try and fit into someone else's shoes. The best soles are the ones we create for ourselves. :)

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