people aren’t perfect

News flash, right?

Most of the time, I don’t believe in the concept of perfect. A perfectly-prepared meal, perfectly-written paper, perfect performance. You get the idea. Theologically–if you lean that way–perfection is generally unattainable in this life. If you swing atheist… well, I don’t actually know what you’d have to say about it. But I think you’d at least agree that people aren’t perfect.

We know this. Right? This isn’t a news flash, is it? So, then why is it so difficult to accept criticism? I’m usually pretty good at taking criticism, whether I deserve it or not. Film school pretty much functioned on the assumption that if you were there, you were open to others’ opinions. I guess I’m pretty expressionless, because it seems a lot of people thought I didn’t care for their opinions or intended to ignore them, neither of which was true. I listen very carefully to critiques. Whether I agree with them or not, it’s always important to understand why someone thinks a portion (or all) of my work could be better.

As I said, no one’s perfect, and we don’t produce perfection. For a writer, this is just part of the process. First draft, second draft… the idea of a final draft is more wishful thinking than a goal, I think. We all know, that draft will never really be finished. There’s always tinkering to be done.

I remember one particular incident. I was reading from my thesis before the entire department faculty–or, at least, those who had decided to show up. And several of my peers. Afterward, everyone got to speak their mind. I can’t remember what the process was called, but I think the word “trial” was in there somewhere, or should have been. One of my professors–he shall remain nameless–gave me very on-point feedback. I nodded politely and listened. At some point, he stopped, laughed, and accused me of, well, of preparing to ignore it. Not true, but my thesis committee and I fought extensively when it came to my script.

It wasn’t an isolated incident. But I think at some point, we all feel the urge to defend our work. Just because I disagree with your opinion, it doesn’t mean I’ve ignored your opinion. It just means that I’m not you, my work isn’t your work, it’s my responsibility and not yours. My name goes on it, so I must be comfortable and confident of the final (using that word loosely) product. I guess people feel they need to defend their opinions sometimes, too, and that’s where conflict can start. I’m part of a fantastic writer’s group. A lot of talent. Great writers and storytellers… and perhaps, great egos to go with it. Sometimes we’re eager to get our work torn to shreds, already judging it poorly for ourselves. And other times, well, don’t even think about poking at this piece of dialogue or character choice. It can get tense, but I think we all come out better for it.

I may have mentioned it before, but sometimes this fear of criticism–from others or from yourself–can get in the way. If you’re a perfectionist like me (yes, I’m laughing at the irony, too) you want it to be just right before committing to it, as if you can pen it inside your head first, then quickly scrawl it down on the page. Maybe it works that way for some people. It doesn’t for me. My brain just doesn’t have the processing power to actually write a book, word for word, in my head. At first, I worried it would be the same with my blog. I would need feedback before posting it, I would have to do second and third drafts, polishes, proofs (well, maybe that, at least), and so on before I could publish it. Thankfully, that hasn’t happened. I write, I proof, I publish. No one sees this until it’s up. I don’t even look at it again until it’s up. Writing hasn’t been this organic for me since… I can’t remember. Grade school? Junior high? It’s strange and innocent and fresh and terrifying, and I wonder what my fiction would look like if I could ever apply this same fearlessness there.

Well. Whatever it would be, it still wouldn’t be perfect. 🙂

i don’t need confidence, i have a badge!

Okay, so that’s a lie. But I was just thinking about something a buddy told me a few days ago. Project confidence, and people will respond to it. If you lack confidence, people will sense it. Nothing mind-blowing, I admit. It’s a lesson I’ve heard over and over, but these days I think of it in a different way.

I’ve always thought that self-promotion was a dirty word. Conceited people self-promote. Hacks self-promote. People without talent or… or shame do that. And maybe those sorts of people do. But they’re not the only ones. Genuine, talented, good people also self-promote.

How will anyone ever know what I do as a writer? Or care about as a writer, if I never mention it? I have always wrestled with telling people about something I achieved or was striving toward. I wrote a story that my friend turned into a feature film. I helped him edit it and produce it. I finished a second novel. These are achievements. But I never talk about them. People don’t know. Or those that do have experienced me communicate that to them via reluctant whispers, a dirty little secret I’m afraid of being judged for.

It’s wrong.

I’m extremely proud of A Shallow Grave (yes, please check it out on IMDB or at the official page–if it’s still up http://ashallowgrave.com). I think the story is pretty damn good, and I’m blown away by my friend’s single-handed efforts to turn it into a reality. Of course it has its flaws. So what? It was made. It was screened at a theater! It received a standing ovation.

I’ve written a book, and I’m in the process of querying it with different agents. I don’t talk about that, either, and that’s… just… unacceptable. It’s a fantasy book. It’s a great read. Someone will pick it up, I’m sure. But only if I talk about it. Only if I can speak of it with confidence. Which brings me back to my original point.

Speak with confidence, all you creative types. It’s the best calling card you can ever have. Better than anything you can fit in your wallet. Speak with confidence and with passion. With enthusiasm. Like you really want to share it, because you really want to share it. Right? This is me talking to myself, too. I’ve always relied on the enthusiasm of others to get the word out about what I’ve done. Doing it with my own voice is a new exercise, but an essential one. I’m gonna start self-promoting, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

platforms

This is definitely not the first time I’ve tried to keep a blog. As prolific a writer as I am, it’s shockingly, inexplicably hard to maintain the discipline to do this sort of writing on a regular basis. (To be fair, though, I was fairly consistent with my Xanga. Anyone remember that one?) Well. Third time’s the charm.

So, yesterday was an interesting day. Two things happened that I’m forced to really take time to consider. First, I had a discussion with a co-worker who also happened to be a published writer. Most of the talk wasn’t all that encouraging, but there was one thing she brought up that sticks out. She introduced me to the idea of platforms. It was like she was speaking another language. I seriously think I gave her the blank stare for three seconds before I stammered something. “An internet presence, right?” Well, sort of. A platform refers to the network of people you have access to. (Yes, I know I’ve ended the last several sentences with a preposition. I’m a good writer, honest!) It’s the people you know, people you’ve worked with, have some sort of relationship with, friends, family, co-workers, like-minded hobbyists, classmates, oddball fans, regular acquaintances, and generally people you sort-of-kind-of know. Which includes people you may know through, ta-da, an internet presence. Well, I know people. School, work, family, life. Yeah, I don’t get out much, but I have definitely met a lot of people. Now if I could just keep in better touch with most of them… Well, anyway. She went on to echo another principle I firmly believe. Writing is a way of life that just can’t be taught. Let me clarify. People can be taught to write, definitely. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean the passion. You can’t teach the passion, the need, the compulsion to write. But sometimes… we can get a little lost in our own heads and not end up writing anything. Why? I don’t know. Because we’re anxious about writing something imperfect. We’re afraid to write something that we can’t finish (like me and this blog post). There are a lot of excuses and fears that keep us Writers from writing much of anything. That’s what always got in my way. It still gets in my way sometimes.

Then there was the other thing. I was working at my new job at the library, helping people as per my job description. (No, the computer’s just turned off. Yes, we do have a scanner here. No, we only have Blue-ray at the main branch.) It was coming up on closing time, and there was one patron left who was rushing to put the finishing touches on his freelance sports blog for an impressive website. I was just sort of walking by when he asked me what I thought. Well, I don’t really watch sports anymore, but I told him I could comment on his writing, if not the content. I spent the next twenty minutes doing some minor touch-ups on his blog, and I realized, hey, a lot of people are going to read this thing he’s written. You might be thinking, well, duh. It was a hilarious realization for me. To sum things up, we finished, he posted, we closed. Will I get any props for my polish? Of course not. That’s not the point. It was the idea.

Which leads to this. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not the most disciplined padawan. Rarely do I follow through on a task I say I’m going to do. It got me in a lot of trouble in school, and it’s gotten me in trouble with my relationships. Writing’s been no exception, despite that it’s the most important thing in my life. I’m gonna try really hard to change that. I have no idea what I’m going to end up talking about on this thing. Maybe it’ll be about writing, maybe about my day, maybe my feelings. I don’t know. I guess we’ll see.