Sunday, July 27, 2014

Failing Well

Dear reader, I hope the world has treated you kindly, most often it does not. A careless mistake here a blind eye there could cost you. Eternal vigil seems to be the only recourse. But are mere mortals capable of such a feet? I think not. Is it fair to place all of the worlds burden, squarely on one set of shoulders? Atlas we are not.

At times you may feel overwhelmed. Your responsibilities far exceeding your capabilities. Crushing you under their weight. Desperations takes hold and you panic. Where do you turn for solace the bottle? Lighter? Sex or faith? The answer really doesn't matter. As long as you release. Reset and begin a new. Only this time fail hard.

Think of failing hard as the act of failing forward. It is to move from one failure to the next. However the twist is that you move from one point to the other with the same enthusiasm. The idea is to learn from each mistake and fail better next time. That is you figure out what doesn't work and eliminate those unproductive tasks.

For example when you were learning to ride a bike. How many times did you fall? Maybe too many times and you decided to add training wheels. Once your leg muscles got a hang of it you could pedal and remain balanced without any thought.

Same holds true for just about anything else. Nothing comes without practice. Including writing. It takes hard work and dedication. I have learned from those that have gone before me. And I can only teach you what I have done. And I have pieced together 42,000 words into a coherent story. Not remarkable in the scheme of things. But it is a start.

I now challenge myself to do better than the 42K mark. Not just quantity wise, but quality wise as well. I am constantly trying to improve my writing technique. To do that I apply success principles, that have stood the test of time.

I picked up these principles during my stint as a distributor. If I were to distill the wisdom found during that time I would say the key is to compete with yourself. No need to worry about what others are doing. Focus on you. Only you can be you there is no other. In a sense there is no competition in being you. That's something you own. No one can take that from you.

This also confirms the Islamic tradition of risc. Loosely translated risc can be thought of as sustenance or wealth. Your sustenance has been foretold it has been written. Its just a matter of receiving it. No power on earth can keep it from you. This is a comforting notion. You are now free to focus only on you. You don't have to worry about the other guy who is competing with you. Just focus on your performance. If you feel intimidated that you lack "experience". Just realize that experienced people have the ability to last longer and when the time comes, they know how to fail well.

Think of some people who have accomplished mega goals. They reached celebrity status for the goals they achieved. Barak Obama winning the presidential race. Michael Phelps winning gold at the olympics. All of these are substantial accomplishments. But do you think they happened overnight?

I doubt anyone could hold their own if you throw them into a presidential debate. Not unless you give them a chance to digest the nuances of oral debate. This can only be accomplished bit by bit. They would need to start off on a smaller stage, in a secure setting. Perhaps at a school. Where they could be coached. They could even decide if they enjoy going through the rigor of improving on past performance. If they do than they are worthy of the task at hand.

Once they know they have what it takes, they must remain focused. Shooting off your mouth lamenting to all how one day you will be king does not help. Engaging yourself this way attracts criticism. You do not have the time to bother with critics. Focus on your regiment, study your craft, counsel with mentors, be immersed in your art. You are bound to beat your benchmark.

As you take action, you will make mistakes. Do not be discouraged. Transmute those "mistakes" into lessons learned. Think of it as play, this is how children learn about the world they live in, something adults have forgotten. The only way we learn about our craft is if we allow ourselves to play. Don't worry about style, again don't compare yourself to masters of the field. It isn't fair to your success. Explore with no prior notions. Discover how things work on your own. This will serve to cement the concepts in your mind like no other way.

So how does a writer get better? Where do people holding down day jobs go for mentorship? Well one way is through social media. I explain how this can work, in a previous article. Basically if you follow writers on twitter, they promote their next event and will let you know.

But these events can get expensive and the authors have lives of their own and may not always be available. One way I found to solve this problem was video tutorials. Authors, who are willing to share their technique via video, provide a much needed service. Among these is Stephen J Cannell. The creative mind behind such hit TV series as A-Team and Renegade. In one of his videos he mentions how he writes everyday, for hours on end. He doesn't need to write anymore he already made a nice sum doing it. But he wants to keep his edge.

So what does that tell us? We must also do the same to sharpen our skills. This was reiterated in a web series conducted by a Florida State University professor. Watching the web series is very informative. It was great getting into the mind of an accomplished author as he made his way through a short story. The tips and techniques I picked up from their helped me with my current short story. Also be sure to check out Brandon Sanderson's write about dragons. He also follows a similar format and should prove useful as well.

I must admit is not easy taking their advice. Its hard enough to find time during your day for basic needs like eating and sleeping. Now they want us to write every day. The thing you have to ask yourself is, how badly do you want it? Are you committed enough to your dreams to do what needs to be done? If the answer is yes you will most assuredly find a way. In talking to fellow writers I found that they write during their commutes, during lunch breaks or early in the morning. The point is you will need to figure out what works for you.

I was fortunate enough to meet with G. Willow Wilson,  in the aforementioned seminar. She introduced us to the hero's journey, during our time together. Me and some other students asked her where we could learn more. She referred us to Campbel. Which was an absolute godsend. Researching and applying the heros journey to my main character, raza has solved a lot of problems. But I must admit some parts are still fuzzy. That's why I am glad to have learned about Star Wars The Legacy vid. It takes a look at the hero's journey from the perspective of Star Wars. Screening the documentary helped me too answer some questions I had on this topic.

I find it fitting that you can learn to write stories by reading stories. Just by going through your favorite author's books you will undoubtedly pick up on their style, how they structure their scenes, their use of dialogue, plot twists. Now imagine doing the same with a world renowned author leading the way. That is the premise behind Robert K. Silverberg's book, Science Fiction: 101: Exploring the Craft of Science Fiction. I immediately picked up this book, for me it was right on the money. The lessons taught here will surely serve as a handy how to guide of do's and don'ts when it comes to writing speculative fiction. And the chance to read some classic SF is its own treat!

Another idea I have for providing a better reading experience, is beta readers. I want to know what works and what doesn't. I've put up a request here (see row 9) in case anyone is interested. I feel seeking this feedback will help with my next work. The aim is always to get better.

Hope these success principles help you reach your goals! Good luck with any writing projects you may be taking on. Remember to focus on the present, as the frightening future flinches first. And above all else, fail well dear reader...fail well.
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