If you’re reading this section, you’re either curious or you’re like me – one of these sick individuals who actually enjoys writing, movies, and the
creative process. I don’t know what’s wrong with me that makes me actually enjoy this, but I’ll assume you’re wired the same way.
The most important thing I can tell you is that as an artist, there’s no right or wrong way of going about this. Don’t believe anyone who tells you anything else –
creativity is highly personal. What works for one person may not work for someone else. If you take a class or you read a book and you’re not getting anything out of it,
you’re not the problem. Remember that.
Do I have what it takes?
Early on you’re going to ask this constantly. I’ve got news for you – you’ll most likely still be asking yourself that no matter how long you’ve been doing
this or how successful you are. I think many of us creative types have this primal fear of losing our voices. My advice – relax. If you’re
serious enough about writing to be reading this, either it’s the way your wired, or you’re related to me. You need to have what I call the spark.
What’s the spark, you ask? It’s the drive to do something because you can’t not do it. If you’ll sit at a keyboard on a Friday night
with a chai tea, hooked up to an iPod listening to Tori Amos while your friends are drinking beer and playing video games (and you do love your beer and
video games, don’t you?), congratulations, you’ve got the spark.Feel free to substitute your favorite music for Tori Amos here. This is personal,
but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself.
The cool thing about the spark? Given the right conditions, when all things align properly, the spark will start a forest fire. If you’ve never experienced it,
you have no clue what I’m talking about. If you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s a very deep, life-altering experience
the first time it hits you. You connect to your material in ways you never thought possible. The cool thing is once you feel it, you’ll do anything to feel it again.
The more you work, and I don’t mean going through the motions, I mean putting the passion in like you’re curing cancer (because you are that passionate about this,
aren’t you?), the more likely you are to feel it again. Intriuged? Good. You should be. Follow me on Twitter (tmorgan_2100) and you’ll see how I do it.
OK, I think I have the spark. Now what?
Good, if you’re still reading and you’re not related to me, you’ve probably got the spark. This is a good thing. And of course, you’re wondering what to do now.
The answer is simple. Either it’s going to scare you away or it’s going to motivate you to continue. Know what it is?
Feeling let down? If I told you there was any other way, I’d be lying to you. You need to work. The key word here is you. Nobody
can do it for you. You need to do it. Constantly. With passion. You’ve got to do it and put yourself into it, with the drive of an olympic athlete. Because you
do want it that bad, don’t you?
There’s something else, something very important. The spark without this will quickly fade, because this life can crush your soul. You
need to believe in yourself. More than your wife, your kids, your mother, or your dog. You need to believe in yourself, and you need to remember
you believe in yourself when the rejections pile up or you get a negative review. Because you know that will happen, right? There will be those who laugh at your
dream; there will be those who hate your work for whatever reason. You can’t let that stop you. The voices of doubt can be strong,
but the spark must be stronger. It’s the only way.
I believe in myself…I think…where do I go from here?
If you’re still with me at this point, great. You’re determined, you’re driven, you want it, and you’ve got the spark. What’s next?
You need discipline. Early on I realized taking classes kept me focused and working. Having deadlines and assignments kept me on track. Knowing I needed
X pages by Y date was exactly what I needed in those formative years. And I stress this wasn’t something I did all at once; I went to school, graduated, went back,
took a correspondence course, went back to grad school and took a summer intensive. Know what the difference was?
Hundreds of dollars. The content of the courses was pretty much the same. Sure, the different schools had different terms they’d use, but the fundamentals were
all the same – whether it was the correspondence course, the state college, the private college, or the university out in CA. And guess what? They’re the same in
the good books on the craft of writing. Stories have a structure, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a novel or a screenplay.
So if I could learn from a book, why did I spend all the money on classes? Part of it was the discipline of going to class. Another part was that writing is,
and always will be, lonely. I wanted to be around other like minded people. I’ve met some great people through classes, and they help keep the spark alive.
The biggest advantage I found was a good class can give you access to a mentor. Early on this can be critical – a good mentor can help you develop the artist
that you are. A bad one can do untold damage and possibly turn you off to the process. How do you know the difference? It can be tough to tell. If possible,
talk to the instructor before you sign up. Try to get a feel for how they teach, and how much of it is developing your voice versus forcing their views on you.
Let me share one of my experiences with you. After high school I took some classes at a community college. It was a time when I was still trying to figure out
where life was going to take me. At this college, I hung around in the writing center. (I was a weird kid who grew into a weirder adult…what can I say?) While
there I wrote a science fiction story, not as a part of a class, but as a way to pass time between classes. And it was fun. I enjoyed writing it.
I was in a short story class (reading and analyzing, not writing), and one of our assignments was to turn in a 5 page story. I turned in my 20 page story. My instructor got excited about it, and
asked me to show it to the instructor who taught creative writing. I said OK, this sounds cool, I’d like to get into that class. Or so I thought.
When I finally sat down with the other professor, she told me she thought it was a good story…but I should take the science fiction out of it. This came
as quite a shock to me, and she proceeded to tell me I need to write about things I know, like delivering pizzas and being a college student.
I politely thanked her for her time, and she encouraged me to take the class. I said I’d think about it. I never did.
At that time one of the best sci-fi magazines was a magazine called Omni. I sent that story to Omni…and got a personal rejection. Not a form rejection,
a personal rejection – with specific reasons why I was rejected. If you’ve done this, and you’ve had any success, you know what a big deal this is.
Believe in yourself, when nobody else does.
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