Wednesday, March 13, 2019

If You Want Your Art To Improve, You Need To Invest In It

How many times have you wished you were better at something? A better writer, a better painter, a better sketch artist, whatever your jam happens to be? If you're like most folks with a creative streak, I'm sure it's a constant wish. You know that you can't just snap your fingers and get more skilled, but who has the time to write? Or draw? We all have lives we're living, and there just isn't always room for our art.

Real talk, here. If you want to improve as a creator, then you're going to need to make room for it. Because if you aren't willing to invest in your art, then you're never going to get any better at it.

Lessons From The Great George Carlin

May he never be forgotten.
If you've paid even the slightest attention to comedy, then you know who George Carlin is. Considered a master of the craft, his cutting insights and caustic wit made him a legend among audiences, and an idol among comedians. What most people forget, though, is that when he started off George wasn't anything special. He was a guy who did goofy voices, had good timing, and was generally amusing. So how did the guy who was sort of funny end up becoming a mythical pop culture figure?

Bad financial decisions, and a lot of pressure, since you ask.

You see, back around the end of the 70s, George was starting to get burned out on comedy. He'd had a good run, and he was thinking about getting into movies instead. It wasn't an uncommon career path, and he figured that a change would do him good, creatively and professionally. However, young George had made some mistakes in spending too much money, and now his future self owed the IRS quite a tidy sum of money in back taxes. With all of the other debts he'd incurred, staying in comedy was just a more reliable way to dig out of the hole.

The results speak for themselves.

As Carlin said himself in later interviews, being forced to stick with comedy likely saved his career. Because not writing new and better jokes wasn't an option. Also, since he had to constantly tour and constantly create in order to stay one step ahead of the bill collectors, he got really damn good at his craft. So much so that most people are shocked to hear that he ever considered hanging it up in the first place.

No One Else Is Going To Put The Gun To Your Head

I said this before in Want To Be A Better Writer? Make A Lot of Pots!, but it bears repeating. If you want to get good at something, then you have to put in the hours and develop your skills. Not only that, but you need to keep that edge honed, because it will go dull if you don't use it.

And if you want to get that razor edge, then you need to spend the time with a whetsone, some oil, and finally a strop to get yourself there. Wishing and sighing ain't gonna do it for you.

I'd start turning, if I were you.
If you want to get better, then you have to prioritize your art. You need to let people in your life know that it's important, and you need to practice every day. Not just when inspiration strikes you, or when you feel like it. Some days you spend twenty minutes with a notebook, others a few hours with your laptop. Which tools you use, and how long you spend may vary; the point is you're doing it. Work on a schedule. Sometimes you won't like the work you do. Sometimes it will be sub par, or just junk that you delete the next day. Sometimes you'll get half of a good story out, and you'll have to fix it in editorial. That's great. All of that is great.

Because the only way you're going to improve is by doing it. And the only way you're going to do it is if you decide to do it. Because not all of us have the luxurious misfortune of an outside entity pointing a gun at our heads and screaming, "Write something good, or else!"

You need to look in the mirror, and do it to yourself.

That's all for this week's Craft of Writing installment. Hopefully it helped some folks out there! For more work by yours truly, check out my Vocal archive as well as My Amazon Author Page where you'll find books like my sword and sorcery novel Crier's Knife!

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