Παρασκευή, 19 Ιουλίου 2013

6 excuses we use to avoid creating and why we shouldn't

This article was intended for Cracked.com but didn't make it there. So, if you recognize a familiar pattern, you are right!

Despite the global financial and societal crisis, one could observe that we live in far better conditions than people used to live 30, 50 or 3000 years ago. Most of us have drinkable water at home, electricity, internet, food every day and a home to complain in. Modern day comforts have given us access to ways of creation that would seem impossible 15 years ago. Why do we still invent reasons to prevent us from doing something that would make us feel proud of? Maybe because...

6. We don't have time

The excuse we use:

These times are tough. Those who have a job cannot commit themselves to a project like the writing of a book or a screenplay, even though it has been a dream for the last 12 years, now they work all day and when they return home they want/have to relax or/and spend some time with their children or their spouse or their pet(s) and they cannot commit to something so demanding and time-consuming.

Why we shouldn't use it:

Who gave you a deadline? Besides yourself, nobody knows and nobody needs to know that you are about to write a 70,000 word novel about an android phone that dreams of being an actual android and take over the world or a 6,000 word short story about the world after it's taken over by the android. Nobody is waiting for it. You can take as many weeks or months as you need and work on it until you feel it's ready. If you still believe that you have no time, you may want to start getting up a bit earlier in the morning and not just because of time reasons. Or you can stay up a bit later at night (among other ways to make time). Still, no matter if you're writing a novel or a screenplay or a Cracked article, it's up to you to find the time and get to work. Of course, all this time talk is worth nothing if...

5. We tend to get distracted

The excuse we use:

"Oh, look at that, Game of Thrones is on and I don't want to miss khaleesi's tits, but after that I will write unless Steve beat my score on Angry Birds and yes, the bastard did it and I can't let him have the final word but after I'm done I will write, what's new on Facebook, let's see this hilarious cat video and after I'm done I will definitely start writing but it's late and I'm tired and it's OK, I will do it tomorrow. Just like I keep saying for the 27th consecutive day."

Why we shouldn't use it:

This is kind of the exact opposite of #6. Because you have too much time, you overestimate its quantity and you waste it doing irrelevant and useless things. In two words, you procrastinate. This is a huge first world problem, that sucks away the life of individuals, leaving them old and empty and unable to begin or complete their dreams. The aspiring writer cannot get to open a new text document because he feels obliged to read all the Seanbaby Cracked articles (yes, Cracked is a proud procrastination contributor, but at least it's one of the most productive ways to procrastinate) about Steve Godek's books in one sitting, without a particular reason. The about-to-become screenwriter needs to read the whole Twitter feed of the last four hours so that she won't miss a very important tweet that could have been tweeted (most of the times it's not). So, postponing after postponing, the day and the night are over and they never start.

This is a struggle against yourself. There are various tools out there to help you overcome the weights of procrastination but these can do nothing if you don't fight it alone. Having something to motivate you and keep you focused, like the mental image of your completed project or the glory you expect to harvest as a reward for your efforts, is surely helpful. There's a load of advice and ideas about how to win against yourself but all this means nothing if you don't decide that you are responsible for your actions or the lack of them.

4. We don't think that we are good enough

The excuse we use:

"Oh, why bother anyway? I will never write anything near as good as the books of Stephen King or the screenplays of Quentin Tarantino or the songs of Justin Bieber." You have an idea. You'd like to work on it and develop it, but you don't have the confidence to continue because it's gonna be crap anyway and it's not worth the effort. So, you just don't do anything and you don't have to endure the mocking of all those people who will agree with you and your opinion about your unborn brainchild.

Why we shouldn't use it:

"...my considered opinion was that I had written the world's all-time loser." Talking about Stephen King, these are his words about his first published novel, Carrie, which his wife retrieved literally out of the garbage bin and convinced him to not quit. The novel went on to bring him a nice deal of $400,000 (in 1974) and the paperback edition sold over a million copies in the first year of publication. Not bad for a piece of trash, right? Of course, we don't suggest that every garbage can (or the recycle bin of your desktop) contains a masterpiece or a best seller (often not the same thing), but maybe a second opinion by a person you trust can be invaluable.

Also, you shouldn't forget that all writers think they suck at some point. It happens to even the best-known ones and this rule doesn't apply only to writers, of course. Maybe your expectations are too high and they keep you from obtaining the first piece of self-confidence that you need in order to take off and start but you should have in mind that even if the complete work actually sucks, at least you have something to work on and improve thanks to the beautiful Delete button and the rewrite/editing process. And if it's sucky-beyond-repair, well, you can move on. Anyway, if a screenplay sucks but nobody's there to read it, does it actually suck? See? No harm done. Unless...

3. We don't know what to create

The excuse we use:

"I don't know what to write about. Everything has been written. Everything has been sung. I have nothing new to say. Whatever I create will be a slightly changed version of things that have already been said. Maybe it won't even be changed. I don't want to just copy the ideas of other people." That's very honorable. And very lazy as well.

Why we shouldn't use it:

Let's say that you want to write a screenplay. Will it be a comedy? A thriller? A mystery? A romantic comedy? A porn parody? You name it. Just as every person is different and any random combination between two persons is different, the same way the exact same idea will be developed in one way by one writer and very differently from another, yet the main theme will be the same. OK, we don't suggest that you take distinctive ideas like Weekend at Bernie's, but you can still make a small change at the core and come up with something that could remind people of that movie but in no way will it be considered as a ripoff, because it won't be one. For example, instead of killing the Bernie of your story, you can put him in a state where he passes out every now and then, putting the main characters in big trouble. It's your story, your world, your rules.

All you need is to have a notebook on you at all times and write down everything that comes to mind that could be used. The ideas will add up quickly and soon you will have a juicy bag full of ideas to choose from. As screenwriter Robin Swicord puts it, "My problem is what am I going to do with all of them? I don't have enough time to write all the stories that come into my head." So, yes. There is a plethora of ideas and all you have to do is get them. Or you can come up with a stronger argument. Like, for example...

2. We don't know how to create

The excuse we use:

"OK, I found time, I closed Facebook, I pumped up my self-esteem and I got a awesome idea. The problem is that I cannot write, because I don't know how it's done. I mean, I know how to write simple texts, but in order to write a novel or a song, you need to know what you're doing, right? There is a formula that I don't know and I'm too old to go somewhere and learn how to do this. Leave it. I'll never make it."

Why we shouldn't use it:

First of all, don't talk like this. It's sad. It makes everyone around you feel unable to do anything. Stop it. Second, it's unbelievable to be on the internet and have the nerve to use the "I don't know" card as an excuse. If you really want, you can find tremendous resources for studying and all this for little to no money at all.

For starters, Amazon has over a million books for Kindle (if you don't have a device, you can always download the app) and many authors offer them for free for a few days. A lot of interesting information can be found there, not always the best but if you are "too old to begin school again", you must be old enough to know what kind of information works better for you. In all fields.

Not a reading fan? There's always the alternative solution of videos. You want tips on writing a novel? Maybe you'd like to write a screenplay. Or a song? Anything. There are good people out there, who took the time and effort and prepared some videos in order to share their knowledge with you. 

For those of you who want something more complicated and interactive, Coursera has lots of classes on various fields. What happens there? A professor, usually someone who teaches in a well-known university, has prepared some instructive videos which you, the student, watches and tests yourself with the little quizzes at the end of them (which are important for the final grading). Also, every week there is an assignment in which you use what you have learned during this week's lessons. These courses are free and they act as a way for the teachers to promote their books and courses, without any obligation from the part of the students. For example, In July begins the Songwriting course by Pat Pattison. Absolute beginners that follow the instructions and take the time to complete the assignments, will have written a full song by the end of the 6 weeks which is the duration of the course. Coursera offers a plethora of free courses in various fields and Songwriting is only one of them.

So, yes. There is an ocean of information available to all. You just need to pick a subject and start studying. The only problem is that you can get too much information and get overwhelmed or even study too much and never actually start working. But it doesn't matter, right? Because...

1. We won't be able to publish it

The excuse we use:

Or, to be more precise, "we won't be able to find an agent/editor/publisher or even audience". You don't start at all because you have the impression that your work will never become a Hollywood blockbuster, a New York Times bestseller, a Top-10 hit or whatever you have in mind as a definition for "success" in the field you're dreaming of succeeding in. You have the opinion that if nobody powerful enough discovers your work and gets impressed enough to offer you the opportunity to make you famous, then you have failed.

Why we shouldn't use it:

First of all, success is something relevant. If your only idea of being successful involves seven figure contracts, red carpet walks and little hills of cocaine snorted off of glass tables and plastic breasts, then a smaller kind of recognition in a more local scale will feel inadequate. If you aim exclusively for the very top of world fame, everything else will look like you're useless and not worthy of the oxygen you consume and take away from actually important and creative human beings.

Well, first of all, it's not necessary to wait for someone to discover you. There are many ways to do it yourself. Of course it will be a lot harder to take care of the promotion of your work yourself, but for this there are also some websites where, for a small or bigger fee, you can get some useful help. Also, there are many books available on the subject and some of them can be found for free, as we saw earlier.

Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's taking time. Yes, it doesn't ensure any success. But do you know what else doesn't ensure any success? Sitting on our butt and doing nothing and expecting to be globally adored for that. It's all about taking initiative and, if the work you want to do requires a team, pull the others with you. Try it. It's worth it.

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