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ProAm Tips #10

Outrunning the dragon.

The reason I keep writing in relative obscurity is because I can’t possibly stop. It’s anathema to my very being, my own self-image, that I NOT write. I knew the odds when I started, just as every young writer knows, and I believed I was different, just as every young writer does. In between panicking and thinking your work is shit, you are shit, and you have all the skill of a punch-drunk money hammering on a typewriter with the corpse of a dead chicken, like every young writer I knew I would be a star.

There’s some imagery for you. Trust me; I’m a writer.

The fact of the matter is, you aren’t shit. Trust me. You may not be great, sure, but you’re not shit. If you’re pushing words, you’re a writer. If you finish something, you’re a writer. If you write, you’re a writer. It’s simple. And there’s no such thing as a shit writer.

There’s shit STORYTELLERS, sure, but that’s not the same thing. Maybe your execution failed. Maybe your grammar isn’t up to snuff. Maybe punctuation is your kryptonite. I don’t know. I do know this: if you’ve ever written an entire thing, start to finish, you’re a good writer. If you do it enough, maybe you can get to be a better storyteller. Maybe you’ll hone your craft. Learn how to show, not tell. Learn where to put that fucking semicolon. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll be a better storyteller through grinding out the words.

The only way to be a bad writer is to not write.

If you write, you’re a writer. If you finish something, you’re a writer. If you tell a great story, you’re a great storyteller. Get it right. Don’t bash on yourself for the wrong reason. It is vital that you KNOW your weakness, not deflect. And once you write, you gotta get it out there. For years, I dreamed of being a published author.In these dreams, I was recognized for my skill. Not great, but Good Enough. My dreams were realistic, because I know I’m never gonna be Hemingway. I don’t even own a shotgun, and I hate Florida. Naah. I dreamed about being a worker bee, pushing out books that some people liked enough to buy, and support myself in the style to which I aspired- to never have to have a real job.

It’s a dream.

The one unrealistic problem I dodged for years was… I never let anyone SEE my work. Kinda hard to get discovered when you’re not out there for public consumption. When you don’t TRY you always fail. I get it. I get it. It’s scary. Getting rejected is so awful that most humans spend their entire lives trying NOT to be. It sucks. It hurts. It doesn’t kill. I get it. Looking at the published authors out there, the sheer mass of the work is enough to scare anyone into silence. But here’s the deal-

They’re already beyond the gatekeeper.

You’re not fighting a war with anyone already published. You’re only fighting to get to the head of the line of the UNPUBLISHED.

The analogy I like is this (I hope you know what D&D is, or this is gonna sound weird) – you’re the Ranger in your party. The Ranger is the writer who’s finished something. The dwarf in the party is someone who HASN’T. The dragon is coming for your party. The dragon is swooping down behind you, and you better run. The dragon is failure.

But… you don’t have to outrun the DRAGON.

You only have to outrun the dwarf.

As long as you try, the dragon can’t get you. You may not make it past the gate, but at least you didn’t stop in your tracks and become tomorrow’s dragon poop.

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