But how much do you really want it? Lessons from fan fiction.

There are a lot of things I want to talk about in this blog. And at three posts a week, I’ll eventually get around to it all. I hope. Three posts a week right now is a lot, despite the fact one post is the Star Stable diary, one is a movie review and hopefully one is me rambling about an interesting opinion. (If it isn’t interesting, please let me continue in my ignorance.)

In my previous post about fan fiction (and why I love it), I wrote a bit about how fan fiction helped me churn idea after idea and string them together into plots. How there were some ideas out there that were an incredible mish mash that were so crazy you couldn’t help be what the fuck, and hopefully just enjoy the mad crazy and fun for what it was. And hey, you don’t have to enjoy the extreme crazy sides of fan fiction, because everyone likes different things, but those extreme crazy sides are out there with their whacky ideas that usually make me go “why didn’t I think of that?” And then later I remember, that peoples brains work in mysteriously different ways and it’s okay that I didn’t think to crossover Supernatural, Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. I have my own fun and whacky ideas that make people look at me and go “I couldn’t ever think of something like that? How do you come up with these ideas?”

When I say I’m a writer, people think that’s pretty cool. (And tell me so.) Then, they tell me their idea for a book. Which is great, I love ideas. I’m overtly enthusiastic about ideas. And sometimes they go on a little overlong about them, but I know I’ve droned probably to someone overlong about an idea and hey it isn’t me running my mouth for once so I can be gracious and listen. (I have opinions, okay. I almost always have something to say.) I will try my best to never insult or put down an idea. I’ll be honest and say that something might not be my cup of tea, but if other people like it then that’s great. Go you and go them! And then when I tell them that they should write their idea (even if the execution might be terrible, the idea is important.) They either want me to write it or they just sort of laugh it off and then don’t do anything.

And that makes me think of this strip from Irregular Webcomic. And I’m linking it, because it’s not only the comic itself that is important, but the writing underneath it. Go ahead, click the link, read the comic, read the writing underneath, and then come back. I’ll wait.

You read it. Good. You came back! Better! Thank you. (And please, go ahead and read Irregular Webcomic from the beginning if it interests you. Because I find it awesome! Just finish my post first, please.)

Ideas are great. I love ideas, and I love people who have ideas. We creative types have to stick together. And in some ways, I’m not even talking about creative things. It takes an idea to start a sport. It takes an idea to create the next wave of awesome technology. It took an idea that the world wasn’t flat to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. But ideas, on their own, are just, ideas. They are a concept. They are a seed from which things could grow. Ideas are nothing by themselves. In order for them to become anything, one has to take that next step and do something. And to take that next step, one has to want it.

It’s easy to be dismissive or even derogatory of an idea. “Anyone could do that?” or “That’s stupid.” (Oh how many times have I heard those words? If I had a quarter.) But those ideas, stopped being a concept and became reality because someone wanted and had the creative drive to make their fantasy into something solid and concrete and there. And maybe you in particular don’t want and don’t see the artistic merit in painting an entire canvas a certain shade of red, but there was an artist that did and took the time to meticulously put red paint onto a canvas to get it the precise shade that he wanted and we need to respect that drive and that willpower that pushed him into having that creative force. Don’t degrade that creativity simply because you didn’t do it or can’t see the artistic merit.

I find that I can tell something about a person by how much effort they put into something they say they want. If they want something, they will be out there every day with whatever spare energy they have finding some way to make their wants reality. If they truly want something, they will put the effort into making it come true. And no amount of negativity or nay saying is going to bring them down until they get what they want. Those that truly want something, have spent the time to know the steps to get what they want. And they know that there will be a certain amount of luck and a certain amount of money invested on their end. They know they will hear a lot of “no,” and laughter and “that’s not what we’re looking for at this time.” And they will carry on. They’ll go and make their idea better and try again!

At some point, when people are telling me their ideas, I have to sit there and ask myself, ‘How much do they really want this? What are they doing now that makes me believe that this what they truly want?’ People who aren’t doing this are a waste of my time. I can’t invest my personal energy into cheering on their goals, if they aren’t going to invest their own energy into attaining them! Because it is so easy to put the cart before the horse, as in that web comic, and be thinking ahead to the movie deal or money, when you haven’t even taken the horse out of the barn! It’s all well and good to daydream. The more you visualize something happening, the more likely it is to happen. But without work, or advancement of the idea, you’re never going to see that end result!

It isn’t easy. It is so much easier to stay in motion instead of applying an opposing force to ourselves to change what we’re doing. It’s easy to make excuses. It’s understandable to be afraid of failure and rejection. It takes work and work is hard. And there will be up and downs, there will be some days where whatever it is you want, it comes easy. It gives you energy. And you’re happy and flying high. And other days where it will be all you can do to roll out of bed in the morning, put on your bathrobe, tie yourself in and slog through it. Working at it, means you practice, practice makes you better. And once you’ve carried through with something, gotten past the pain of uncertainty, there is a road ahead of you and you’re ready to hitch that horse to that cart and see where it takes you!

But it involves work. It involves wanting that goal so much that whatever that work is, it is worth it for that end result.

I was attending a party with some of my parent’s friends. They’re good people. They’re dedicated people to a particular craft. They’re musicians and musicians are a special brand of people. (In more ways than one.) They might not come up with anything new, but they enjoy what they do and I respect that. And I don’t remember how, but the topic of the choir performance on Sunday came up. And one woman said that no matter how awful or horrible the choir sounded during practice during the week that on Sunday, it was like a miracle and they sounded wonderful. And when I responded along the lines that, no, it was because they put work into it and without that work, the performance would still be bad despite the fact they were in church on Sunday. I’ve been part of and sat through enough bad choir performances to have a little authority on the subject. (I don’t know if I was quite that blunt, I hope not. Cringe. Apologies if I was. I know I wasn’t as articulate as I wanted to be.) I was replied to with a very dismissive “Oh ye of little faith.”

This deeply upset and frustrated me, because to do what these people do on a regular basis, which is to play musical instruments, takes a certain amount of talent, skill, and hours upon hours of practice. They did not become good at their instrument because of a miracle or magic. They wanted to be good at playing an instrument. So they put effort into becoming good. They spent at least an hour or two every day to become as good as they are. To be in a choir is no different. To have all the voices in harmony, on key and singing together as a unit rather than disparate people takes time and practice. Have you listened to professional choirs? You have to audition. You practice every day! To become that good, you don’t do it by not putting in the hours and showing up every day to practice. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be part of the professional choir very long! To be so dismissive of the hard work that it takes to do both things, play an instrument and to sing well, is insulting to the choir (church or professional) and to their own hard work! (The amount of dedication it takes to be an organist for a church makes me dizzy, not only do they practice on their own time during the week, they practice with the choir as well, who meets at least once a week and are practicing songs several weeks, if not months, in advance.) Learning a new piece of music takes time. (Unless you’re a genius or an idiot savant, then I tip my hat to you and applaud.)

I love these people, and I know I wasn’t ever able to articulate why I was so insulted that night. The idea that faith without work will carry a person through to succeed insults everyone who has put their mind to any task that requires practice, be it music, or art, or engineering. It insults people of all walks of life and education. (As my daddy says, it takes four years to become a good machinist. And I say, you also have to want to be a good machinist.) To throw away all that hard work to begin with and those who have done the same amount of work and failed at their goals with a dismissive ‘oh, you don’t have enough faith,’ is deeply offensive and condescending. That a person didn’t succeed because they didn’t believe hard enough? Belief is not something you can quantify and put in a spoon or chart in hours and minutes of time put into learning or practicing a concrete skill. There could be a hundred and one reasons that they might have failed at this time, but let’s not say it was because of lack of faith or belief. (If there was no faith or belief, they probably wouldn’t have put themselves out there in the first place!)

By God, yes, you can have faith the size of a mustard seed and move a mountain. It doesn’t mean that mountain is going to be the end result of the choir performance, the group performance as a whole. It could simply be the courage of one individual to get up there, stand in front of a huge group of people and sing, no matter how squeaky, or off key you sound! Faith, is sitting in a room, day after day, writing something and believing that there are others out there that will want to read it. (It is also ego, but thank God for ego or else I wouldn’t have books to read.) And that faith is going to carry you through until you are published one way or another. (Because that is a mountain.) Faith is believing that there are people out there that want to know and care about what you do. Faith is belief that your hard work will pay off. Faith is stepping off that cliff and not knowing there will be something to stop your fall and doing it anyways. Faith is the follow through to the idea, the want, the motivation and the work. Faith is the end game, not the beginning. Kind of like an idea itself. Faith grows. It is something you have or you don’t. You either believe or you don’t believe. Faith and hope can be similar in concept and execution. Hope is the feeling. Faith is the action, (which is funny because hope can be a verb and faith is a noun.)

To become proficient in something, it takes ten thousand hours. And in the beginning, you’re going to fumble and drop your pick, you’re going to be out of key and your voice will quaver, your fingers might tremble. Your words won’t always be the best. With practice, and hard work, and drive, and learning from mistakes, you can get better, to achieve that lofty goal you’ve been dreaming about. And when you’ve reached that goal, you’ve learned that piece of music, you’ve stood up in front of everyone and sang and you’ve written that book. There comes this giddy flush of satisfaction (or the nauseating feeling of misery.) And suddenly, you want to do it again (or if it was a bad experience you swear it off for good. It happens.) And it’s on to the next idea. The next want. The next goal, with faith that there were people who liked your first idea and maybe they won’t like your second idea, but you won’t know until you try.

I didn’t learn this from Irregular Webcomic, though, it really did help crystallize some of what I’d been thinking. I didn’t learn this in college, (unfortunately no one there was quite that deep.) I didn’t glean it from ‘The Writer’s Little Book of Wisdom.’ (My personal writing bible.) Though some of the ideas are there in those pages if you know where to look. I learned it from fan fiction. From putting myself out there, time after time. From braving the uncertainty, from taking that leap that there was someone out there wanting to read my stories. That while my ideas might be stupid or ‘anyone could do that’ in some people’s eyes, those people didn’t matter, because they hadn’t done those ideas and I had! I can look back and see now that my first stories were awful, but after a lot of hard work and focus, hey, I’ve improved drastically. And the end result, that someone wanted to read what I wrote. Someone shared my passions. That reading my stories would make someone feel a little bit better even if it was just for an hour or five minutes that they could forget their troubles. Because writing them distracted me from my troubles. I achieved that goal. And that gave me courage to post another story, because I had faced that uncertainty once and nothing bad had happened, and another story, and another (and oh dear, I was awful wasn’t I.) I was/am a part of something bigger than me! And that was the sweetest satisfaction of all.

And all it takes is an idea, a deep want to motivate you to work and work hard and a little bit of faith.

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  1. Bringing it all together: Work, work, work… | Ginny O.

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