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History Will Judge, But We Do Anyway

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com and Steve’s Tumblr.  Find out more at my newsletter.)

My friend Serdar had a very insightful post on how we compare our  creative work to others.  He realize’s it’s a bit of a fools game:

My work can only really be measured against my other work. It can be compared to other work, and I guess you can draw lessons about what it might lack or where it might excel, but those lessons only really help to shape the directions you choose to take for your own present or future work.

We can compare works all we want.  Indeed, we should as it’s educational, but ultimately all we can do is learn by contrast.  If we’re not careful, we’ll stress ourselves out racing against other authors – and those aren’t the people who have to compete against to get better.

The person you’re ultimately racing against – or pacing yourself against – is you.  You are not other writers, and you can never directly know them or their limits or abilities.  What you can do is know yourself so you can improve and grow.

Writing is challenging and complex enough as it is without making yourself miserable with comparisons that will yield little insight.

That doesn’t mean you won’t worry about your work’s success, or its meaning, or how people take it.  That brings something else to mind – history is going to judge you, and is going to no matter what.  You can’t be 100% sure you’ll succeed, or be popular, or even be understood.  You merely do your best.

Now what if you’re really sure you want your work to be noticed?  You want to attract the eye of history?  Fine, good, but . . .

. . . it doesn’t exactly matter if your writing is good in that case.  Let’s be honest, writing “quality” has a subjective element to it.  A story may be poorly written – but also timely and what people need.  A story may be brilliant – and ignored because its ahead of or behind it’s time.

So if you want to be noticed, make history, then write well, using yourself as the yardstick . . .

. . . but develop the self-promotional and marketing skills needed to get the attention you want.

Just remember they’re not the same.  In fact, maybe you should be judging your marketing skills the same way as your writing by just getting better with you as the yardstick . . .

Steven Savage

Why We Write, Why We Wrong

(This column is posted at www.StevenSavage.com, www.SeventhSanctum.com, and Steve’s Tumblr)

Over at his blog my friend Serdar talked about why people write. Some people, he notes, want all the benefits and the aura of being a writer . . . except they’re not too up on the “writing” part of it. To be a writer, you have to write.

And Serdar, like Brad at Hardcore Zen, and like myself note it’s a kind of compulsion.

I write because it’s something I do. I craft words, tell stories, organize information. I’m not exactly sure why – these are traits all humans have, for me and others its just pronounced. We do it more often than they do. It’s who we are.

Now you have to work on it, as Serdar notes, something not everyone else does. Me, I self-publish a lot of stuff, I’ve yet to “hit it big,” I may never do so. But that’s not my goal.

And that’s the crux of being a writer – it’s something you do, but you also apply yourself to figure what you can and should do with it. That’s where many, many writer’s break down.

Because here’s the rub – writing is not just writing nor is it just improving it – it’s knowing what the hell to do with it to reach your goals. Write all you want, but if you want to do something with it you have to ask just what your goals are.

I’ve met many people who want to write, but they want to write under highly specific conditions. They want to be a writer and be paid – but in this genre and at this pay rate and so on. No, if you want to be paid as a writer you write, and that leads you to either A) write whatever pays the bils, or B) work your butt off on your focus to become very, very good (depending what “good” is).

I’ve met people who write but for fun and occasionally wonder what more they “should” do – when maybe all you want to do is write fanfic and that’s perfectly OK. That’s good, that’s fine.

Or there’s me, who likes writing, likes helping people and cataloging knowledge, and does it as a kind of hobby that occasionally makes money. It’s a skill I like using and would like to use more, so I’m gladly learning and seeing what more I can do with it.

But that’s my schtick.

So if you want to write figure your goals and go and channel that writing into succeeding. But if you don’t do something with it, you’re never going to get much done.

  • Steve