Updated: Apr 21, 2021
The stereotype is accurate; we old folks love the Facebook. It's the best way to see how many of my peers I've outlived, and it beats weeding through the obituaries in the print rags.
Somedays, when I wake up, and the sun is shining, and the birds are singing, I'll log onto Facebook to get my blood pressure going--it's the secret to outliving my peers. The best way to ignite my crankiness is to visit the 'writing groups' and read the posts.
Here is a sample of some actual questions from one of the writing groups that I frequent:
"I need a name for my main character! Please help!"
"I don't know what to write about! Please give an idea!"
"Can someone help me name my novel?"
And the immortal:
"Just wondering how people Wright battle scenes in fantasy setting."
Innocent questions? Maybe. But here's what gets my hackles up, how serious can you be about writing if you're asking a group of strangers to name your main character or, even worse, name your novel?
Writing, like any form of expression, is art.
It's your art, dammit, so show it some respect!
Artists need to take their craft seriously. I'm not suggesting that you start rolling your cigarettes, buying black clothes, wearing Lennon sunglasses, and looking down your nose at the latest trend in 'commercial' fiction.
What I'm suggesting is that you take the act of creating seriously.
So, without any further jabber-jawing from me, allow me to present Frank Blank's Rules For Taking Your Creativity Seriously:
1. Learn Your Craft
Excelling at your craft, whether you're an artist, writer, or musician, requires practice and the best way to practice is by doing. You can read a hundred books about guitar playing, but nothing will prepare you for the first time you pick up the instrument and strum the strings. Reading about your craft is lovely, but you will never improve if you don't apply what you read. Bury yourself in your art. Immersion is the best damned teacher.
2. Don't Compromise Your Integrity to Make a Buck
Some of you whipper-snappers will disagree with me, but I don't believe in compromising certain aspects of my art. I've heard stories of writers, filmmakers, and musicians who were pushed by their 'Corporate Masters' to make sad endings happy or write 'radio-friendly' hits. These types of compromises are the death of art. I'm not talking about an editor who points out your grammar errors (refer to Rule #1). I'm talking about changing your vision to satisfy the masses.* A reporter asked David Lynch what he thought of product placement in film; he said this.
3. Don't Release Something Until it's Done
The best way to sabotage yourself is to release your artwork before it's ready. How many one-star reviews for self-published books litter Amazon? How motivated would you be to buy another book by an author who released a book filled with spelling errors? Why would you waste so much time working on something, only to release a half-baked version?
Be patient, and do it right.
4. Create What You Want, Not What You Think the Market Wants
A woman in a coffee shop writes a book about wizards, and the next thing you know, the market is flooded with wizard books. Someone writes a book about vampires, and suddenly, you’re tripping over novels with pale-faced teenage blood drinkers. Stay true to vision! If you want to write an epic about ants that rise up because they are pissed about being stepped on, then dammit, get writing. Who knows, you might trigger the Killer Ant Craze of 2025.
5. Don't Just Talk About It, Do It
You heard me. Stop surfing the internet. Stop binging Netflix and Disney+ and get working on your art! Trust me; there's nothing on television that can compete with the feeling of creating something from nothing.
That's all I got for today. Hemingway just coughed up a furball—that's my signal for dinnertime.
*Bukowski had something to say about the masses.
Frank Blank lives in Phoenixville, PA, where he spends his retirement at local cafes writing and drinking espressos. He lives with his cat Hemingway, who he frequently argues with about the merits of James Joyce and F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you have a complaint, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. He will most likely file it under "Junk." He maintains that he once beat Orson Wells in a drunken arm-wrestling match.
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