I’ve had an interesting weekend! A very cool thing has come up that I can’t talk about publicly right now, but I’ll let you all know if and when it comes to fruition in a few months. It’s going to chew up a bit of my time for about another week, and then life gets back to normal. Naturally, this is messing up my current “primary goal” but that’s OK. When a great opportunity comes along, the smart thing is to shift priorities. I really can’t say more about this right now.
Looking back at comments from last week on our time-management discussion, I find a few that need answering.
First, I hopped the train out of order. And since then, I’ve been trying to do several of the things on that list simultaneously. (Sorry, I confess! I’m Multi-GOALed. But I’m thinking about working on that.)
OK, The NOVEL is what got me enrolled as a Freshman, and gave me a reason to get serious about the craft. Are you saying I need to set it aside until I’m a Junior? I thought that by working on my blushing novel during intense learning phase, I’m:
1. Making Words On Page — which count toward that 1 Million words every novelist needs to write to get into Publishing Heaven.
2. Exercising the craft tools I acquire.
3. Finishing something I started, for what it’s worth.
Upon enrollment as a Freshman, I was enlightened by these profound words of wisdom:
• Work on your craft
• Go to writing conferences
• Take classes on writing
• Read books on writing
• Meet other writers
• Join a critique group
• Write, write, write!
~From Fic 101 — What to DO if you’re a Freshman
So, as a Freshman, is it counterproductive to “focus” on a heartbreaking work of staggering genius while learning the craft? Does this weaken my primary focus?
Randy sez: By all means, work on that heartbreaking varmint! Work hard on it. Give it your best shot. Some novelists actually do sell that first novel. Just be aware that you might not be one of them. Stephen King didn’t sell his first 5 or 6 novels. I think the first one I sold was #6. A lot of writers have to write about that many before they break in. After that, of course, pretty much anything you write will probably get published.
Those first unpublished novels are not wasted! They are necessary steps along the way. You will never get good unless you give yourself permission to be bad–in some cases, very bad.
Write, write, write! And that means write a novel. I don’t approve of spending time overmuch on writing exercises (although I have recently started doing daily writing exercises designed to make me a better writer.) But I believe the best training for writing a great novel is writing a crappy one. And then a better one, and a BETTER one, until you achieve Novel Nirvana and get published.
I LOVE Simple*ology! I am taking time out of my busy schedule to get it going — printing the books and binding them and everything. I think I’ll “get it” eventually, and I think it’s really going to help moody me on those days when I have a hard time focusing for the moping I’d rather do. The daily praxis rocks. And I am learning what things I have in my life that drain me that I didn’t even realize did!
I love it too. I’ve always been quite productive, but I have been noticeably more productive since I started that strangely-named-but-oh-so-useful Simpleology 101. Part of what I like about it is that I am absolutely certain every day that I’m on the right track to reach the goal that’s most important to me right now. Because if you do that pesky Daily Praxis in Simpleology, you know what you want and you are on the shortest path to reach that goal. (There is no guarantee that you’ll reach the goal, of course. But being on the right path is a good thing.)
I understand the point that Brausch is making, and the motivational and psychological reasons for his argument. But he messes with the language irretrievably. “Try” of course means that one is acting, though it’s a word that captures some ambivalence about either one’s level of commitment to the action (or to achieve the goal that will result from the action) or one’s uncertainty about the prospects for success.
Brausch is making a point about the latter meaning. He’s saying “commit, darn it” — “stand up” in his lingo. And this is fair enough. We all need a kick in the pants sometimes. To put his idea in another context, seeing is believing, but sometimes believing is seeing, and it’s this latter aspect that Brausch is cheerleading about.
But to apply Brausch’s argument to the part of “try” that gets at uncertainty of outcome is foolish. Many runners compete in a race, but only one wins. They all tried to win, and took action to do so (by running in the race).
Randy sez: I hear what you’re saying here. The word “try” is certainly ambiguous. But I like his main point, which is that all too often, “try” is just an excuse for “not taking action.” If I ask my daughter to feed the cat, I do NOT want to hear her say, “I’ll try.” In that context (when it’s a simple matter of doing something she knows how to do), the words are just a lame way of saying, “I’m not going to do a darn thing.”
I’m guessing a number of you have seen the movie FACING THE GIANTS. It’s a “Christian inspirational football movie” if there is such a genre. The acting is kind of spotty, and it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of java, but I find it inspiring. There’s one scene that I really love.
The coach is telling his team how they need to commit to the team. He challenges the captain of the defense, a guy named Brock, to do the “death crawl” for 50 yards. (The death crawl is where you have to crawl on hands and feet–no knees can touch the ground–while carrying another guy on your back.)
Brock says he’ll try. The coach says, “No, I want your best effort.” Brock agrees to give his best effort. Then the coach blindfolds him so he won’t know how far he’s got to go and won’t give up until he’s totally exhausted.
Brock agrees to this while his teammates smirk. Nobody is taking this seriously.
The death crawl begins, and pretty soon Brock is getting tired. The coach keeps telling him, “Your best effort, Brock. Give me all you’ve got. Your best effort!”
This continues for yards and yards and yards. Pretty soon, the teammates aren’t grinning. They’re on their feet watching Brock crawl and crawl and crawl some more.
The coach is hollering, Brock is sweating. The coach hollers some more. “Give me all you’ve got!” He counts down how many more steps to reach the goal: “Ten, nine, eight, seven . . . down to zero.”
When he gets to zero, Brock collapses. He’s lying there gasping, asking if he made it fifty yards. The coach takes off the blindfold and says, “Look where you are, Brock. You’re in the end-zone!”
And he is. Brock’s gone twice as far as he thought he could. He’s learned that he can do amazing things, but “trying” isn’t enough. “Trying” would have got Brock 20 yards. Brock didn’t merely “try,” he acted. He kept on taking action–far beyond what anyone thought he could do. Except that darned coach, who knew all along what Brock could do.
Folks, don’t settle for “I’ll try.” Take action and keep taking action until one of two things happen:
1) You realize that the goal you chose is impossible, or
2) You realize that you don’t want this goal anymore–you want a different one