Tuesday, March 5, 2013

"If you decide not to make things..." (an IWSG post)

"If you decide not to make things, all you've done is deprive the world of all the stuff you could have brought to it."
--Neil Gaiman

This is a great quote by Neil and not something that I haven't said before, but I've never said it like that, and I love the way he put it: "...all you've done is deprive the world..." That's just fantastic.

Often, people will feel great conflict over creating. It can be debilitating.

"Is it good enough?"
"Am I good enough?"
"What if it's no good?"
"Am I just wasting my time?"
Oh, it goes on and on and on, and, if you visit enough blogs of pre-published writers or, even, some post-published writers, you will run into all of it and more.

I think, maybe, we're asking ourselves the wrong question. Oh, I get it. "Is it good enough?" is an important question if you're trying to get traditionally published and all of that, despite the evidence that plenty of stuff that isn't really "good enough" gets traditionally published all the time. Some of that stuff that isn't "good enough" even becomes incredibly popular. But that question, that question about being good enough, isn't so important in a digital age of self-publishing. If it was ever important at all.

I think the better question to be asking is, "Is it me enough?" Is it the story that you want to tell? Is it the story that only you can tell? Are you bringing to the world that thing that only you can bring to it?

Of course, that circles back around to "am I good enough?" and "what if no one likes me?" Questions, really, about self worth and esteem, and those can be... well, those can be hard to ignore. But we need to ignore them. We need to ignore them so that we can focus on that story that can only come from us.

So... some examples:

George Lucas made a short film while he was in college called "THX-1138" which is supposed to be brilliant. When he graduated, he wanted to make a movie called American Graffiti, but he couldn't get anyone to be interested in that. What he found was people that wanted him to make a full length feature out of THX. He said THX wasn't a full length kind of thing, but that's what they wanted, so that ended up being his first movie. It didn't do as well as everyone else thought it would. Once he was able to make Graffiti, which he did for almost no money because THX had flopped, it became the most successful film ever made up to that point and held that title for something like 30 years.

Lucas was under contract with Universal for two movies, and the next movie he wanted to make was this thing called Star Wars which Universal wouldn't back. They wanted a sequel to Graffiti. Lucas said that story was finished and didn't want to make a sequel. Eventually, he got 20th Century Fox to take Star Wars, and Universal got American Graffiti 2. How many of you knew there was a sequel?

Tolkien wrote this whole history of this place called Middle Earth, but he couldn't get anyone interested in what he called The Silmarillion. He ended up getting an unrelated novel, The Hobbit, published. The publisher wanted a sequel, but Tolkien didn't have a sequel in mind for it nor did he want to write one. They insisted. He did try, but what came out of that attempt was more Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings, which the publisher didn't want. They ended up taking it anyway, probably realizing they just weren't going to get what they wanted out of Tolkien. And, in the end, The Hobbit became part of Middle Earth.

Heck, even Twilight was something that came straight out of Stephanie Meyer, because, before that book, if you had asked anyone if they would have thought that sparkly vampires would be a good idea, I don't think you would have found a single person that would have said "yes."

I could go on and on with these examples and go one to debate the success or lack there of when artists strayed from what the story that was coming from them into other areas. For instance, the thing most criticized about Return of the Jedi is the ewoks, a thing which Lucas did not envision but fell back on because he didn't feel like he could realize his vision of an epic battle of wookies against the Empire. There's Kevin Smith and his decline in success as he tried to move toward making movies he thought people wanted rather than making the movies he wanted to make. And more and more and more.

The thing is, though, when you try to make what you think people want, everyone is disappointed, because you can't meet the expectations of everyone and, then, you haven't even made something you're happy with, so no one is happy. Make the thing that only you can make -- the book, the movie, the painting -- and don't worry about the rest. Don't deprive the world of that thing that only you can bring to it.

I'll leave you with this:

[This post has been brought to you by the Insecure Writer's Support Group.]


  1. Amen brother! You've just given me the kick in the butt I needed.

  2. Amen brother! You've just given me the kick in the butt I needed.

  3. Writing a book with which I am happy has become my main focus. If other people happen to like it, then great. If not, well...I didn't do it for them.

    That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

    And I had no idea there was an American Graffiti 2.

  4. There is a balance that can be achieved between creating for yourself and creating something that will appeal to your audience. I think artists can do both, But you must begin with what you want or the rest is all drudgery.

  5. You have to write the story you want to tell because that is the way to make it great for you. I think it shows in the writing if it isn't coming from the authors heart. We are all individuals after all. Good luck.

  6. Thank You! That 'am I good enough' is my meanest shadow at the moment. And I think you just got rid of him. *BIG HUG*

  7. Nice sentiments, and very good advice. Follow your muse, not the market.

  8. Ultimately, don't conform or compromise. We start cranking out what's expected and it fails to be our vision anymore.

  9. Well said. I think I hit upon the same idea in my post today. Although in my case, it was really meant for me.

  10. Meh, I don't think the world would be much deprived from my contributions.

    I didn't realize there was a sequel to American Graffiti but then I never watched the first one.

  11. Excellent advice and something we all need to hear at various times in our life.

  12. I write for me, at my own pace but then I am still scared to death what others will think. You hit the nail on the head - self-esteem.

    Great to be a part of IWSG with you!

  13. I'm going to reply to this and your editing post below, and elaborate on what I commented on "lit" the other day.

    For me, the real boon of the Internet was that it let me write whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and occasionally I found readers who liked it, too. But I wrote for me. The first short story I wrote as a post-college adult was "The Deal," and I wrote it and put it on a blog just on a dare. Then I wrote another short horror story.

    That was back when Myspace was a thing and I had a Myspace author page that I used to promote my books, much like I use Twitter now. I never got almost any feedback until some girl from Australia -- her name was "Sez" -- said she liked my stories.

    Then, one day, a girl emailed me on Myspace and asked when I was going to finish "The Window," a story I'd been serializing, saying she'd been waiting forever for it.

    Stuff like that let me know that there were people reading what I wrote, which is why I always leave a comment on whatever I read; just knowing someone read it was often enough for me, even when they didn't particularly like it.

    So: part one: write what you want. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I've had more fun writing since I stopped worrying about whether some publisher liked it or not and just wrote what I wanted.

    As for editing and writing and making it fun, well, I'm working harder on editing, and what I do is rotate around so that I'm never working on a story when I don't want to, and never doing "just" editing when what I like is writing.

    So some days are designated for editing -- I'm editing a new novella, now -- and some for writing, and the writing days I randomly assign to one of my blogs, and then I randomly assign a topic on that blog.

    It works for me because then, when I feel like I don't particularly care for a story right then, I don't have to keep working on it. I can just switch to something else, keeping that story on the backburner for a while.

    I can see where that'd be a problem, in one sense, if you never finish a story, but, then, I've been writing "Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!" for something like five or six years now and it's no closer to ever ending.

    So if you REALLY hate editing, just decide to do it for 20 minutes a day, or only every other day, or something. That way, you'll feel like you're still getting the fun part of the writing process.

  14. HM C: I hope it didn't hurt too much!

    M.J.: Yeah, I actually own it (because I do want to see it), but I've never managed to make myself put it in to watch.

    Anne: I think I used to think that, but, the more I go along, the more I think that once you start trying to... appeal? to the audience, you lose the thing your audience liked in the first place.

    Suzanne: Except for that one guy. He's not an individual. We know it's true because he doesn't even have a name anyone knows.

    T.: Well, I'm glad to hear that! Bad shadow!

    Neil: Wait! I have a muse? Is it hiding?

    Alex: Exactly! I've never been good with conforming.

    Rusty: Well, who else is there to do it for?

    PT: The first one is good. I mean, it really is a good movie, especially if you grew up in that culture.

    JKIR,F!: I think it's something more of us should hold onto all the time. Especially kids.

    Elsie: Well, Emily Dickinson was scared to death of what others thought, so, after she received one criticism, she decided she couldn't handle letting anyone else see her stuff, even though she really did want to be published. It was too bad for her, really.

    Briane: Unfortunately, I don't enjoy switching back-and-forth between things very much, so, if I try to switch between writing and editing, what I'll end up doing is writing and no editing. It's also why I don't have more than 2 projects going at once.

    One day, I will get around to reading your zombie thing. I just haven't had the time to try to work that in yet.

    That's cool about that comments from out of "nowhere." I was actually talking about a similar thing in my author's note in part 15 of Spinner.

  15. Yes! I think that's part of discovering your true voice as a writer. I'm writing the most "me" novel I can imagine right now. I don't think this novel would occur to anyone else. I'm hoping that's a good thing. :))

    And I actually tweeted Neil Gaiman during the Twelve Stories thing he was doing. I sent him a link to my blog for January -- the day I wrote about the guy's face freezing to the floor in January. :)

  16. Great post. I wish Twilight had never been made, but American Graffiti and all the other examples you list - awesome.

  17. L.G.: The January story was fun, but I like February's the most of the ones I've listened to so far. April's made me laugh, though.

    S.L.: Well, you know, I can't get behind Twilight, either, because, well, sparkly vampires, BUT a lot of people do love it, so you have to give Meyer credit for that. I suppose.

  18. That's awesome! it is ME enough! I think that is one thing I do manage. I can't help but put ME in the middle of everything I create.

  19. I still don't think sparkly vampires are a good idea, but she sold a lot of books, so who am I? But yes, I like what you said here. It's a good point. A nice kick in the booty. I'll have to stop depriving everyone. Actually, I spent hours on editing the other day, and it felt good. The problem is that I keep just getting into the reading and forgetting I'm editing. I guess that's a good thing, though...

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

  20. I'm still struggling with where I fit. Luckily, I'm not in a rush.


  21. I agree with you 100%. It crushes my soul when I hear a writer say, "Well I talked to an agent who said the next big trend is going to be (insert book genre here), so I'm writing one of those in the hopes I'll sell it." It's not the knockoffs that make waves and make names for themselves, it's the original tales that dared to be different. And it's like your mention of Twilight. I hate Stephenie Meyer. I don't think she could write her way out of a paper bag. But she did bring a unique idea to the table and managed to sell it, which is an amazing accomplishment. If you had told an agent 10 years ago, "I'm going to write a book about sparkly vampires and werewolves and emo humans that fall in love," they'd probably laugh you out the door.

  22. I LOVE Neil Gaiman...and George Lucus and Tolkein and even Stephenie Meyer. ;) Great post.

  23. Nancy: So do you make a cameo in your book in the vein of Hitchcock or Kevin Smith or anything like that?

    Shannon: Maybe you should be doing by editing, then?

    Donna: So you're saying you're a strange peg?

    ABftS: I'm trying, lately, to not be so critical of Meyer. I'm not gonna read her books, but, well, you can't argue with what she did. And it appealed to people. And it appealed to people probably because she wrote her own story, which, really, was just for herself. That kind of thing just seems to work.

    Kimberly: Thank you!

  24. Hi,

    I love you movie choices. They were great. I loved everyone of them.
    We must be from the same generation.

    Anyway be sure to check out my list at

    PS I plan to follow you. Please follow me back. I appreciate the support.