Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘#MondayMotivation

#MondayMotivation: Figure Out What You’re Best At…

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Folks, it’s time for a Monday Motivation post. (And as I’m still — somewhat, anyway — on Twitter, I decided to use the hashtag in the title. For my sins, I guess.)

When you were young — or at least, younger, as most of us do not enjoy pointing out that we’re not as young as we used to be — your teachers, mentors, and even your parents used to say, “Figure out what you’re best at, and do it.”

But how do you do that, exactly? Especially if you’re a creative type, when creativity isn’t exactly understood?

Maybe this is where Malcolm Gladwell’s book OUTLIERS holds a few of the clues. (I reviewed this book a while back at Shiny Book Review — yes, I do plan on writing a review or two this year, thanks for asking — and I’ve never forgotten it.) Gladwell insists that to become an expert at your field, you need approximately 10,000 hours of hard work to get there. (And even more time than that to stay there, improve upon your expert abilities, and keep going at that high level after that, no doubt.)

The way I view this has to do with persistence, otherwise known as ramming your head into the wall over and over and over again until the wall falls down. It’s not an elegant solution, but it’s the only way I know to get things done.

So, when you get a story idea, or an idea for a poem, no matter how outrageous it seems, you should write it down as best you can. (If I’m pressed for time or tired or ill or all of the above, as I’ve been lately, I try to write it down in prose note format — that is, whatever I get, I write it down, sans dialogue, sans much in the way of description unless it’s absolutely essential, so the idea is not lost.) Even if you can’t do anything with it today, even if you can’t do anything with it next week either, it’ll still be there, waiting for you, when you can look at it again and develop it.

I know this method works, because I’ve had at least four stories that I’ve developed after writing them down in prose note form…and in two cases, I got halfway into the story, then had to put it aside for six months to a year before returning to it.

(What can I say? I’m like a dog with a bone. I have to finish what I start, no matter how long it takes. No excuses.)

So, to figure out what you’re great at, you need to keep working at your talents as much as you possibly can. Whatever they are, figure them out, keep going, refuse to give up on yourself, and give it your best shot. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you differently, either…because the only person who can tell you when it’s time to stop (if it ever is) is you.

Written by Barb Caffrey

January 16, 2017 at 6:23 am

Monday Motivation: Write Your Story — and No One Else’s

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Sometimes, when you write, you worry about all sorts of stuff.

Will anyone ever like what I’m doing?

Will what I’m writing make any sense?

And, sometimes, this poisonous, midnight thought creeps in: What if what I write is too much like someone else’s work?

I call that a poisonous midnight thought because it saps your creativity something fierce. It makes you think that what you’re doing isn’t special, or vital, or interesting. And it makes you want to give up.

Want my advice?

Here it is: Don’t.

Refuse to give up. Keep writing, as long as it takes.

Never give up on your stories.

Now, as to why I say this? The simple fact is, you can give ten different writers one story prompt, and end up with ten wildly different stories. They might be in different genres; they might be in different voices; they might be in different time periods, even. So that one story-prompt, which you’d think would lead to a bunch of very similar stories, often leads to anything but.

Why is this?

It’s simple. Every person writes differently. Our minds are all different. Our stories are all different, too. And the way we tell the stories, much less how we tell the stories, is also all different.

That’s why you should not be afraid to write your story. No matter if everyone else has done vampires to death, if your story has a vampire heroine (or villain), go ahead and write it — ’cause it’s still your story, and it’ll be unique because of you.

Or if it’s military science fiction, say…there are a ton of great milSF writers out there, and maybe they’ve written a story very similar to the one you want to write already. But your characters are different, and you are different, too…you have to trust that your story will be different, and that you will not commit unintentional plagiarism.

Now, if you’re truly worried about unintentional plagiarism while you’re writing, just don’t read books in the same genre as the story you’re working on.

I realize this is a hardship, mind. Most of the time, you wouldn’t be writing in the genres you’ve picked unless you truly loved the work of other authors. (Cutting yourself off from these authors is quite difficult, but it’s not forever — it’s just until your own book is done and put to bed.) That helps protect you, and your writing, and may give you some peace of mind.

But if you can’t do that, you need to trust that your story will be different, because it has you at the heart of it rather than Other Writer.

So, please. Do yourself a favor, and set that worry aside. You don’t need it.

All you need is you, your belief in yourself, and enough time to work on your stories. Because they are important, as are you…but you won’t know that until you work through your fears, and just keep going. (Damn the torpedoes, eh?)

Written by Barb Caffrey

September 19, 2016 at 8:49 pm