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Quit Writing : 10 Truths You Need to Know About Being An Artist Poet or Writer
The world should have informed you about the rules and realities about writing today, but they never did so listen very carefully.
Answer me this question, did mankind plagiarize the word of God when writing down the Torah, or did God give the Jewish scholars exclusive copyrights to publish his material to be mass marketed and bastardized with each successive language translation down the line? This being the case why is God not listed anywhere as a writer, contributor or even the one who dictated the original text for the rest of mankind to publish at will?
God is not even listed on the inside cover page of the Torah. They could have just as easily given God credit for the most widely published book in human history, something like the Holy Bible written and translated by God and Harlequin Books. Twenty-third American Edition, being sold for the first time in paperback. Maybe even have someone autograph or stamp them with the God seal of approval for children by the Newberry company, or maybe even the Gideon's.
Yes, my rant is a little silly, but so is being as full of themselves as some writers get once they discover they might have some little bit of talent. This is why I decided to write down these 10 truths about being an artist, poet, or writer of any kind or level of ability. So listen up, I have been a writer for over 35 years of my life. In this area, I do know what I am talking about. For some of you, that means humor me until I recognize your incredibly unique and awe inspiring talent. Until then, let us talk about the realities that make many people want to quit writing.
Nothing is original. Get over yourself and start really writing.
Most artists start off on the wrong foot, particularly writers. If you really know anything about literature, poetry or the written languages we use, then you have to admit that everything truly original has been done long ago. The goal of great writing is to expand upon the human experience from a personal or universal point of view. Imitation is how amateur writers get ideas to write about. Writers are artists. All artists steal and are most of them are proud of it, because art is not really art unless it threatens your very existence. Originality is the voice you use, not the words that you write, and to show you I mean what I am saying listen to this. Please feel free to steal or cop anything that I ever write, it does not make a difference in the grand scheme. The only pitfall to watch out is not to become an imitator of imitators, as my fiend Joe once said. If you read books to find out where more books are, so you can just read more books, then you are not really a collector or learning anything. Writers that do borrow or steal from others, they should realize that their source material maybe stolen and if so, second hand plagiarism is just bad form. Stealing ideas is not necessarily a sin in this writer's humble opinion and yes that a subject that many might disagree with me on, but that debate is not made for the scope of this article to cover.
Talent is a vampire. Foolish mortals use art to feed on power.
If you think you have talent then use it, practice at it and be aware that others want to be around talent. Talented people often waste a lot of time on the people talent attracts. Try to avoid people who are your friend because you are talented. There is little value to be gained by being seen as talented by others, except getting laid and maybe being given free party favors. Instead of being the object of awe by virtue of your natural talents, try encouraging others to be something better than you are capable of. The only difference between a vampire and a poet is that vampires have the decency of telling you they drink blood to sustain their immortality. Poets and writers are capable of much more horrific deeds just to be told that their books of psycho babble are meaningful. Lust for fame is the goal of the talentless hack, the muses abandon the artist that believes what people say about them too greedily.
Write every single day. What else do you have to do anyway?
Don't wait until you have an idea to write. You should write something everyday and yes, even when you don't have anything to say. Writing takes discipline , it is like a muscle that needs to be exercised to stay in peak form. Your mind needs to practice writing daily to stay fresh, but also to get rid of the obtuse crap that you think is good writing. Trust me, all those journals you keep like sacred codex in your private hidden places at home is mostly junk. Read it sometime, I do this regularly and I am sad to say I do it too. Not that writers do not occasionly write something brilliant, but usually the great works come out of revision and editing of originality gone horribly wrong. Try writing content for ads daily for a while, when you can write something creative about a fork, spoon or dog food every single day for a living, then you will understand that most writing is purely content to make ourselves content.
Reading is fundamental. Great writers love reading other writers.
Use your brain daily is the best advice my step father ever told me as a teenager. If you are trying to write about a subject, then you should also be reading and researching that subject. Reading other writers regularly is the yin to the yang of writing daily. Reading expands your vocabulary, raises your conceptual ability to think, lets you examine how people use grammar, and also makes you realize how much work real writers go through. The worst published author has gone through hell to be published, so never be critical of other writers that have become successful. Instead ask yourself why they have succeeded, reading their book will probably provide the answer. During those hours when you get a case of writers block, always have a new or current book to read nearby. Read for a few minutes and see if it does not clear your head, plus literacy is one of the benefits of being literate.
Always have side projects. There is a lot of down time as an artist.
Side projects are good to have, especially when you are writing daily. They can be anything, but they should be creative in a way that differs from writing. They should also relax you and relieve stress if possible. It could be anything from yoga to dog walking, but I recommend activities that involve other human beings. Interaction with the real world is the surest way to expel the problems associated with mental fatigue that plague the creatively challenged. Remember that being an artist should not be the only thing that defines your life. Nobody is born to be a tortured artist, but many people believe this. Hobbies are as important for the creative minded as any other type of personality. Mine tend to be a little embarrassing, so I will share them with those of you who are shy about this subject. I like to shop, people watch, dance to loud eighties music, go out to a karaoke bar, watch court TV shows, lay around eating ice cream, and if I have a willing girlfriend, have lots of sex. Having side projects is something extremely important for writers to make time for, ask your friends they will agree with me.
Let people read your work. What is worst thing that could happen?
It is good to get reactions and opinions from people during the writing process, even if you do not agree with your point of view or like your writing at all. Getting outside thoughts from a reader can often let you see things that normally you would not have given consideration. Sometimes these things are very helpful and can spur your mind to greater expansion as a writer. Another good thing about getting honest criticism is that you experience what it is like to not be like. Fear of rejection can disable or even cause a writer to quit their craft altogether. The worst thing for an artist is to go for years with nothing but their friends to judge their talent by. The best thing in the world is going up in front of a crowd and bombing, I mean absolutely sucking dead air with every word you have written to recite. Because once you have experienced it, you no longer have to fear being rejected and when things go well it is all the more enjoyable. Trust me when I say that I have failed enough in public to know what I am talking about.
Would you read your story or poem, if you had not written it?
Yeah right, most of us are willing to subject an audience to our writing and preface it with an explanation of what we were trying to achieve when we wrote it. Well take yourself out of the equation, reading your own writing without finding any flaw in it is a very bad sign. It is a sign that you have no idea what people would want to read and writers are retarded if they only write based on their personal tastes. Take time in the writing process to read what you have written. Ask yourself if you would actually enjoy reading your work and if not, why? Sometimes we are so busy writing that we forget to reread what we create, try not to do this. It is not a bad thing to be able to see your own writing with the same critical eye that you do anything, like TV news or People magazine. I am sure most writers have sat and critiqued how bad something on television was written. How easy it is to do this to someone so far removed from ourselves. Poets especially should take note of what I am saying, you are the worst at this I guarantee it.
Being boring is a good thing. Creativity is the friend of alienation.
There is much to be said for having a simple lifestyle. People who have busy social lives are not usually as creative as the hermits of society. The creative process needs alone time and needs to be free from distractions. Writers need lots of time alone to write. Nothing will kill inspiration quicker than being popular and having a busy social calendar every weekend. Of course getting out and having fun should be part of a healthy lifestyle, but being an artist is either a priority or it is not. Good girlfriends and boyfriends love that you spend time down in the lab. Bad ones complain that all you ever do is spend all night downstairs scribbling in those stupid notebooks of yours. Good friends share your passion for writing and maybe even want to go do things that involve that interest. Bad friends want you to stop playing with yourself and those gay little poems you write all the time, so you can designate and drive them to pick up some hookers. Party at home if you must, Hemingway, Wilde, Blake, Byron and Burroughs all drank, did drugs and paid for sex, but stayed at home so they could facilitate doing it while writing their asses off. Also they got arrested less often that way.
Less is always more in great writing. Editing is an art form itself.
Creative minds often have to accept that editing is necessary. What a writer chooses to leave out of a story is what really makes a difference between a great novel or a mindless masterpiece. Tolstoy is historically infamous for some of the longest novels in literature, but rarely is he praised for his ability to reach the average reader. Granted his works are treasured and studied by the best writers for their complex formula of grammatical mastery, but it is not really necessary to say anything in a thousand pages. War and Peace is greater in the epic method it uses to deliver its message, but today the same tragedy could be expressed without making the reader spend equal time in isolation as Tolstoy did to write his masterworks. Also there are writers that use brief but potent writing equally well, such as Steinbeck, Poe, Twain and Lovecraft to name a few. Even William Shakespeare knew that a catchy song was equally, if not more memorable to the clever mind and could still convey any powerful social message to the audience. Less words have more impact, but well edited writing is made more powerful and shows decisive choice as a seasoned writer.
Writers need to eat. Being a starving artist results from stupidity.
When you are offered actual money for your work, remember that you need to pay your bills and there is nothing ethical about being a bum. Many artists treat their work like a child they have raised, but what is the point of creativity if nobody ever sees your work. Selling out is a good thing, making a living as an artist is an even greater thing. Remember that there are thousands of artists who have yet to make any money writing, thousand more will only make a few dollars in their whole lives, and the rest are likely to die without a penny to their names. The few who reach the level of fame or fortune to earn a real living writing are not complaining about it. The real sign of success is having the right to say your talent is worth something, so be proud of anything your creativity allows you to earn money by doing. Michael Angelo painted signs and houses when he was not working for the Roman Catholic Church doing his greatest known works. Jimmy Page worked as a studio musician for over a decade before ever forming Led Zeppelin. Even modern artists like Jay-Z are equally happy to be rapping or using their talents to marketing their clothing lines, no artist with any common sense is above making money using their natural gifts and being successful at it. There is time to be critical about artistic ethics after there is food on the table, but starving for your art is generally a sign of ignorance or being talentless, as my Canadian writer friend Kimberly has told me many times.