Dear Fellow Writer,
The secret to success is consistent action. Small steps taken every day toward your chosen goal will take you much further than short, random and generally unfocused spurts.
Talent is really just the empirical manifestation of a craft practiced often and to your own satisfaction. The more you practice, the more talented you appear to outside observers.
Take charge of your future by deciding on your desired outcome and work on it, in some way or other, every single day.
In case you missed it, here's a free PDF for you to download - 10 Writing Tips - to help you improve your craft - and your talent.
THIS WEEK'S ARTICLE:
Once Upon a Time
Gustave Flaubert apparently took five years to write Madame Bovary - not a bad feat considering it's still regarded as one of the most 'perfect' novels ever written.
Flaubert was famous for wanting to find just the right word - le mot juste in French. Sometimes he would spend a whole week in solitude, agonizing over one single page until he considered it as faultless as he could manage.
In contrast, Sylvester Stallone took a mere two weeks over writing the first Rocky movie - and said of Flaubert's precise writing style, "What was that all about?"
What indeed, Sly.
Of course the times have changed - a little.
In 1856, Madame Bovary was at first considered immoral. Its protagonist has the kind of romantic liaisons that are now - to modern Sex and the City girls - considered the norm. Even so, the story still has the power to shock the middle class sensibilities it was designed to question over 150 years ago.
But what of Rocky?
Hardly shocking on any level - notwithstanding the comic book violence - but it does have the advantage of using the archetypal underdog makes good motif that appeals - and has always appealed - to audiences since David allegedly slayeth Goliath.
Plus, Rocky made Sly very rich. Much richer than Gustave could ever have hoped to become - and I think that's the point Stallone was trying (in his New York drawl) to make...
Which is: Why spend five years of your life working on something meaningful when two weeks will do the job?
Is that the kind of world we live in now?
Where Art is throw away? A world where the dumbest of ideas can generate billions of dollars and create industries and employment for tens of thousands? A place where quality is not judged by its execution but by the effect it has on the consumer - no matter how fleeting...
Talking of fleeting, I noticed the other day that James Frey - he of the infamous A Million Little Pieces and the great betrayal of Oprah - is the man behind the Sci Fi thriller, I Am Number Four.
At first I wondered how Frey made the giant leap from semi autobiographical fiction to Sci Fi film production - until I noted that his first film, made for just $20,000, was released at least five years before his NY book deal.
Now, I don't know about you, but if that doesn't suggest to you that it was perfectly clear to everyone - the media, including his publishers and Oprah - that his book, A Million Little Pieces was obviously fictional, I don't know what does.
All I can assume is that the media conspired to perpetuate a myth that Oprah was well aware of right from the start...
And talking of myths, there's one that says that when a writer gets an Oscar, he rarely works again - presumably because no director or producer wants to collaborate with a guy who has "proof" his writing is essentially flawless...
But interestingly, the producer behind True Blood - yet another vampire inspired schlock-fest, based on the books by Charlaine Harris - is none other than Alan Ball, the writer of American Beauty.
There again, Ball was a long time TV writer before his Oscar winning movie debut.
I guess the point of this article is the question, "What should we work on - and why?"
Do we write for ourselves, no matter what the cost in time, effort and the possibility of a complete lack of recognition?
Or do we write for the fickle marketplace?
The usual advice is to pursue the former.
However, my slant is slightly different...
Because I've noticed that many successful writing projects are in fact borne out of a writer's relationship with the marketplace - and the frustrations inherent in dealing with it.
Famously, Star Wars is a thinly veiled statement about the little guy (Luke S - Lucas - geddit?) taking on Hollywood (the Death Star).
Metaphorically, Rocky is probably how Stallone's career prospects might have been described once upon a time.
American Beauty began as a cynical indictment of empty headed TV sitcoms.
And of course, James Frey apparently only said his book was all true because he received outrageous pressure from the media to do so.
In the current world marketplace, writers needs to balance the possibility of success against the almost inevitable threat of obscurity, given the number of competitors involved.
And when you want to pay the rent and work on your passion, what real choice do you have?
The fact is there's nothing ignominious about keeping one eye on the media - and fashion - when you plan your next magnum opus.
After all, you want to remain relevant, don't you?
And what's more relevant than the struggling artist - a metaphor for the instinct to explore and prosper and change things - banging his or head against the brick wall of fortune - until a possible solution appears?
The irony is that the very things that make a writer come up with a story - the frustration, even the anger at the lack of success and recognition - are the very themes that make the writing project work for the eventual audience.
Worth bearing in mind, n'est-ce pas?
I'm sure even Gustave wouldn't argue with that.Keep writing!
THIS WEEK'S WRITER'S QUOTE:
"Don't pay any attention to the critics - don't even ignore them." Samuel Goldwyn