Wednesday, November 26, 2008

If you've got it, or not

OK, so I haven't been here for a while. I've been busy outlining my next book while the recently completed one rests prior to revisions. And, well, I just didn't have anything I felt compelled to say.

But now I do.

The issue of how much talent counts is one I used to debate with my riding instructor. She basically dismissed the whole idea of talent and said anyone who applied themselves diligently (10,000 hours, anyone?) could reach a high standard of riding – or dancing, singing, swimming, whatever. I used to argue there were limitations in some people that might stop them achieving this, otherwise everyone would sing beautifully and swim like Ian Thorpe.

But ultimately we uncovered two factors at the heart of the issue: application and aptitude.

Some people unquestionably have a higher aptitude for particular activities, whether it’s writing fiction, riding a bike or playing a musical instrument. But even these people will never fully develop that aptitude without application, without applying themselves to practice and study. A student with less initial aptitude who works hard will sometimes outshine a very gifted student who goofs off and doesn’t apply themselves.

When I was riding a lot at the Uni where I was studying Equine Science (as a mature age student), people would tell me how lucky I was to be a good rider. It wasn’t luck, it was twenty years of instruction, training and application. If I’d decided whether to continue riding based on the initial aptitude I showed I would never have got anywhere, because I had very little. I had a good affinity with horses and I liked them, which was why I wanted to ride. But I had to apply myself to get any good at it.

My concern remains that people will be discouraged because they feel they haven’t ‘got it’, and they will never be any good. What is ‘good’? A better question should be do you enjoy it? The flip side of the talent/not debate is that people can seize on it as either an excuse or a reason not to bother, or to justify why they will never improve. Or it may be the reason they give up something they love.

When you are suffering from those insidious self-doubts, the idea that no matter what you try you will fall short of your goal can be enough to make you think about giving it away. This applies whether you are an athlete, an artist or a writer.

With writing, so much comes down to persistence and getting your work out there – so you can have the ‘luck’ of being in the right place at the right time – that I would hate to see anyone quit because they feel they don’t have the raw materials to start with. I don’t believe 10,000 hours is what you need in the literal sense, it just stands for a willingness to persist, and learn, and improve and keep doing it.

So if you love doing something, don't give up.

Whether you've got it or not.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two magic little words

The End.

That's right, I reached that sweet spot where those two magic little words go in my manuscript. I've had my head down, making words on the WIP and the story's essentials have now been laid down. Yes, I know I haven't had anything to say here for a while; all the word energy has been focused elsewhere.

So that's the first draft done and I basked in the sense of achievement for, oh, let's say a day. It was great.

And now the real work (and the real fun) begins: revising.

Bring it on. I'm looking forward to it.

No, really. Although telling the story has always been my passion, as I learn more about the craft I get more and more excited at the opportunity to dig back in to a manuscript. I want to get hold of those languishing tattered bits and tidy them up; I want to peer into the holes and work out what is needed to fill them.

And I can't wait to find the hidden gems lying unpolished and overlooked in dusty, forgotten corners. It will be my pleasure to cut and polish those, and hold them up to the light so they sparkle.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Making Words

I’m back again. I’ve had my head down, working on my manuscript and there hasn’t been time for much else. Now that the ms has stopped sulking good progress has been possible and I’ve made many words. The end is in sight.

There was no miraculous change, and the words haven't come easily. But I knew it was time to push on and I made a little pact with myself that I wasn't allowed to stop just because it was hard. Writing isn't always fun or easy but I think that's fair; the times when it's a bit of a grind balance those where it's more fun than a bunch of kittens and a ball of yarn.

So the words have been piling up and we should be back to our normal programming from now on. Well, at least what passes for normal around here.