the tricky talent of writing

writing is a tricky talent to have for a number of reasons.

if you’re a writer, you already know this – or, maybe you are learning this.

for one (1), it can be very, very subjective.

i remember reading an article written by the winner of a famous writing contest. he submitted 2 entries that year – one was a brand new piece he was very proud of, the other one was an entry he had submitted two years before. it had not even qualified for the quarterfinals round and he had not even bothered to try to spruce it up since then. he just entered it because. and guess what? it won. so the previous time it had been entered, the judges who read it found it wanting, but the second time (same exact script to the comma), it was praised and received laurels.

just because one person doesn’t appreciate your work doesn’t mean someone else won’t absolutely adore it.

for two (II), it’s a hard talent to share because it takes time and patience.

back in my college days, i lived with a bunch of musicians. though i have some musical abilities myself, i would not consider myself a musician by any stretch of the imagination, though i do love making music when time allows. anyhow – my roommates were often recording their music and passing it around to get others’ opinions on it. after all, it doesn’t take long to listen to a three-minute song (about 3 minutes, actually, is how long it takes).

the same is true of my videographer friends. “hey, check out what i’ve been practicing with my editing” – five minutes, that’s it, and then they can get their feedback.

not so with your novel or screenplay. no one wants to take the time to sit down and read through that mess. forget about it. maybe – MAYBE – your friends will read your short story or poem and give your thoughts. maybe.

i once sent out a finished play to a group of friends who said they would read it for me and give me their honest thoughts. none of them ever returned any thoughts to me. that’s okay. it was kinda shit anyway.

for 3 (three), it’s hard to ever finish.

a song, once it’s recorded and mixed and mastered is DONE. there’s no going back. if you want to re-do it, you have to re-do it and call it an alternate mix or a b-side or something. but it’s a different work at that point. same with film. writing, however, can always be improved and the challenge of the writer is to find a point where s/he can say, “okay, it’s finished – i’m done. no more. that’s it.”

of course, your editor will hack away at it anyway even after that point and say, “nope – you got more work to do” – and FORCE you to work on it more. and even after that, years later, you might say, “what was i thinking? i want to re-write this section here…” and you could do that if you wanted and create a new edition.

the same is true when sanding a woodworking project. you can sand all day until Jesus comes back and still have more sanding to do. at some point, you just have to decide you’re done. but that’s harder to do than it is to say. and sometimes that’s where personal deadlines become helpful.

so, hats off to you, writing friends – you possess one of the most difficult talents to share. you will be criticized by many and under-appreciated until at least death. congratulations and welcome to the club.

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