James A. Owen
Then, inevitably, he blows everything up. Not literally. I mean, just when he’s starting to gain momentum and really make something happen, he trips himself up. Sabotages himself. Sets what he’s doing and what he’s done on fire and walks away. And all of us watching it happen shake our heads and sigh.
It’s like he’s programmed to self destruct.
Artists (writers included) are known to be a temperamental lot. You know the stereotype: the tortured artist. We find community in our angst and court our pain in search of inspiration.
Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s all you want to do. But I have to wonder if at some point that kind of drama becomes our work instead the art we were creating.
In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield refers to this kind of behavior as a form of resistance. Julia Cameron refers to it as “the twitch, the flu, the deadly disease” in her book Supplies: A Troubleshooting Guide for Creative Difficulties. It’s that thing you allow to get in your way so you don’t have to accomplish the thing you’re really meant to accomplish.
I used to be this way. I used to unravel my work so I never had to get where I wanted to be. Why? I’ve asked myself that a lot. The best answer I’ve found is that success means change and change can be scary.
Reminds me of that Marianne Williamson poem:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
I wish my artist friend would read The War of Art or Supplies, or Marianne’s poem. But, like a kind of depression, when you’re in a pattern of self-destruction, you don’t really want to hear the answer. You just want to keep being roiled up in the confusion and drama and somedays.
But the answer is pretty easy. (Okay, it’s hard, but also…easy.)
You do the thing you’re scared of doing. You go that extra step. You finish the work. You put away the matches and let the thing live and breathe and shine instead of burning it to the ground.
I think James A. Owen might say it best in his book Drawing Out the Dragons:
“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you. But if you really don’t want to do something, no one can help you.”
Are you programmed to self destruct? Whether you’re able to hear this now, or whether it just sits in your subconscious for a while until you are ready, the truth is this: you don’t have to burn what you’re building.
Just put the matches down.
And I’m so excited!
Also, there are a ton of great sci-fi/fantasy authors making appearances: James A. Owen, Brandon Sanderson, Adam Rex, Aprilynne Pike, Cherie Priest, Kevin Hearne, Sam Sykes, John Scalzi, and a bunch more. Here’s a link to the whole list.
And guess what?
I’m going to be on a publishing panel alongside Shannon Messenger, Suzanne Young, Delilah S. Dawson, and Alexandra Monir! The panel, I’VE SOLD MY FIRST NOVEL, NOW WHAT?, will be Saturday (5/25) at 10:30am.
Did I mention I’m excited? Last year I was in the audience. This year, I’m on a panel. Crazy how much things can change in just a few months.
And if you go, I hope you’ll come to my panel and say hello.
See you there!
While my blogging has been hit-and-miss lately, my writing has not. (Yay!) Nor has my venturing out into the world, attending writing-related events. One recent event was a workshop led by the ever-entertaining and inspiring James A. Owen.
(If you’re familiar with James’ story, you understand the Superman reference. If you’re not familiar with his story, I encourage you to read it. It’s compelling.)
The workshop was titled “Writing for Young Adults”, but a more fitting title might have been “How to Become the Creative You Always Knew You Were”. The evening was full of funny and poignant anecdotes that I’m certain left every attendee raring to get back to writing. My hand cramped up from taking so many notes. And beside many of them, I drew little asterisks. Those were the lightbulb/goosebumps moments.
Because this was a paid workshop, I’m not going to post all of the notes here. That just doesn’t seem right. But I do want to share a couple of gems with you in hopes of propagating those lightbulbs and goosebumps.
There are 7 billion people on the planet. If you have a modicum of talent and the ambition, there will be an audience for your work.
The power of the story compels a reader to read, regardless of the beauty of the writing (or the lack thereof). Write for the story moments that keep readers coming back for more.
Your publishing career is based on relationships, not sales.
Be sure you really love writing. You need to enjoy it during the good times and the bad. If you don’t love it, it’s not worth it.
Be willing to listen to counsel, but also be willing to stick to your guns.
Don’t compare yourself to others. You’ll drive yourself mad. If you compare yourself to your own goals, as long as you’re moving forward, you’ll always win.
Have a healthy attitude of pride about the work you do.
If you like what you read here and you’d like more, check out James’ book, Drawing Out the Dragons. Like the workshop, this book is full of bits of wisdom and inspiration. Keeping this book at hand is like having James sitting there with you while you work, telling you that you can do this, that you are good enough and to keep going when you run into difficulties. Like the workshop, definitely money well spent.