15 April

The Literary Learning Curve...


The Literary Learning Curve...
Ever consider you're riding that wave backwards?
Most new artists slowly, fearfully, creep UP the curve.
They start with some topic and some form that they are,
a) comfortable with,
b) somewhat knowledgeable about.
And so with every work completed, small or large, they get critiqued heavily on what they "thought" they knew they could handle competently, so the assessment burns their butt, and they often skulk away quietly, drop their assignment on the floor of life, and melt away, never to create again.
Does that sound like every writer we have ever known, in the entire universe of writers?
Consider doing things backwards.
Backwards for me has been a lifelong penchant.
I'm told I even break eggs backwards.
What I'm trying to get at here, is stop attempting what is comfortable and pick a writing assignment that is,
a) completely uncomfortable,
b) completely out of your wheelhouse,
c) demands far greater skill than you possess right now in order to competently complete the work.
I know, you say, "But if I keep crapping out at easier stuff..."
I say in retort, "Okay, how 'bout we get you crapping out at really hard stuff instead? 
Crapping out is crapping out, isn't it? Do you want to be caught as a cat burglar trying to swipe a cubic zirconia kid's bracelet OR the Hope Diamond?"
While I rot in jail, I'd rather have remembrances of the Hope Diamond I got within 5 feet of nabbing just before that damn cop sprayed my eyes with tear gas. Ahh...good times...
The Gist: if you attempt an out-of-your-comfy-box work that demands higher intellect, focus, determination, and you submit for critique, and with all the Red Pen boo-boo marks, you re-write, re-submit, and re-write and resubmit again, until your mentor deems the work "competent" — not great, just satisfactory — that will put your skill level on a far higher echelon, quicker, than if you just crawled up the comfy literary ladder.
Then, after that difficult toil, return to your comfort work.
Now, do you see the difference in your skill level?
Now, do you see blatant errors in your prose, you never saw before??
Now, is your imagination far richer for plot ideas, character motivations, dialogue sincerity???
Take my advice. Stop writing in your comfort zone.
Stop writing a memoir about yourself. I know that's what you're secretly doing, hiding the rumpled pages under your bed or way back in your desk drawer.
Start a difficult piece, preferably short, and fart and grunt and groan your way through it. Hate it with every word choice and every sentence completed. Curse tons. But do it and complete it, and submit it to a mentor for critique. And re-write that sucker until your mentor stops dry-heaving.
You will get back a paper full of red pen marks.
You will have failed miserably.
But you will learn to accept failure far easily, you will admit to your faults, admit you need to learn and practice more, and you will readily sit down and re-write and re-write until that failure isn't a failure any longer.
Afterwards, your previous comfort level works will be a piece of literary cake to easily gobble. 
Trust me. Follow me. I know it works. It will get you from not writing TO writing, now, and consistently in the future. You will have Red Penned your mind as well as that difficult piece. Writing is 99% psychological, peeps, whether you want to accept that fact.
FYI: I'm currently writing a 9-stanza poem about Bob Dylan. I've never been a fan of poetry, and in the '60s I thought the wee dude needed a bath and a comb. Difficult much? ;-)

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