Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Creativity and Making Mistakes

Most of the creative people I know have one big quality in common. Mistakes don't scare them. They don't really care if they get something wrong. What they do care about is getting better.

Many of my creative type friends are perfectionists, too, but that seems totally different from fear of failure in the souls of these intrepid groundbreakers. They won't suffer imperfection in their own work. But they acknowledge the mistakes, the flaws, and sand them out. Striving for perfection requires mistakes. I don't know how they always knew this but I had to learn it. I'm lucky I've always gravitated toward people who are lots cooler than I am.

These people who are so much cooler than me did things I would never have had the balls to try. One got an MFA. She is now a sculptor. A couple majored in glass blowing. I thought they were nuts, but really cool. Wished them luck with that. They now have their own studio where they do custom work, their own stuff, and give lessons.

A friend from high school wanted to act. Even at seventeen I knew that was pie-in-the-sky but I certainly hoped it would work out for her. Maybe she could teach drama and speech when she grew out of it. But guess what? Her acting credits now include Spider-Man (yes, THE Spider-man, not the cartoon), Beauty Shop, Never Been Kissed, and a buttload of other stuff. She narrated the audio book for The Help.

Another friend from high school read cheesy romance novels all the time. I knew they were cheesy because they had people kissing on the covers but I didn't judge because all my books had dragons or unicorns on the covers. She also wrote cheesy romance in her spiral bound notebook. I figured it was as good a hobby as any. I didn't have time for hobbies because I was too busy taking all the A.P. classes my high school offered. Her third book just published in April.

I have a double major in Biology and English. English because I just liked it and Biology because I knew I would never use the English part of my degree in anything that would pay the bills. I now find the science portion of my educational background to be extremely useful in Trivial Pursuit and making an educated guess as to whether my children's runny noses are due to allergies, bacterial infection, or virus.

I sure wish sometimes that I had grown a pair a little younger. I always liked writing. It just seemed so stupid to think I could do anything with it. I finally got over being too chicken to try it and even if I never get it right it is the most fun thing I have ever done. Even the mistakes.

So cheers to all of you who had the courage to do what you loved even though it really was pretty dumb. I always knew you could do it!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Showing vs. Telling

Huh. The more I pay attention, the more the superiority of showing something vs. telling it seems to crop up. This article on revamping your resume underscores ten overused cliches on resumes and offers examples of how to show a potential employer that you have the skills they are seeking rather than just telling them. Some examples:

  • Kill this: Results-oriented professional. Replace with your own version: I love to solve thorny supply-chain problems
  • Kill this: Strong work ethic
    Replace with your own version: I taught myself HTML over a weekend in order to grab a marketing opportunity
  • Kill this: Meets or exceeds expectations
    Replace with your own version of this: Invited to join our executive staff at a strategy summit during my first year at the company

Of course, in the article it doesn't mention showing and telling. But they definitely advocate showing and the examples cited demonstrate why it is so much more effective.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I recently read a much anticipated sequel to a book I adored. I waited. I counted the days and hours. I checked my Kindle every hour after midnight on the release date until the book finally showed up at three AM.

I was ultimately disappointed in a big way. So disappointed I was kind of mad about it. It's been a week and I'm still a bit put out. I trolled reviews on Amazon to see what this author's other minions had to say and about half of them agreed with me.

So what was the letdown? Sophomore slump? Overhype? There did seem to be a bit of the "second book syndrome." First books go through years of loving care and pruning, critiqued by friends, romans, and creative writing groups who lend us their eyes, but the second published book goes through a much smaller albeit more elite funnel. On the whole, though, the wit and voice I loved so much in the first book was still there. It should have gone down on my list as "pretty darn good but the first one was better. Still can't wait for the next."

Instead, I've been fighting the urge to post a "WHY did you do this to us/What were you thinking?" message on an author blog. Damn if she didn't throw in a big, fat, old fashioned, soap opera style FRIGGIN' CLIFFHANGER.

I get that not everyone breaks out into hives over cliffhangers. I do. BUT. They are kind of like politics. Whether you are for or against, half the room is going to disagree with you. Safer to stay away from it altogether as far as I'm concerned.

As a reader I feel cheated if the story doesn't feel resolved, or at the very least paused. Cliffhangers just feel...truncated. Like you ran out of paper before you got through. There are two possible reasons to employ such an ending. One, the story you have to tell is longer than the book you have been contracted to write. If this is the case then suck it up and figure out how to make your story tighter. Two, it's a cheap trick to manipulate me into buying your next book.

I was going to buy it anyway. So was everybody else. I'm still going to buy it, but now I feel a little bitter about it. I'm also advising anyone who hasn't read books one and two to wait until the third publishes.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Blog Interview

Here is my blog interview over at Heather's Edited Within An Inch of My Life. Hop on over and check it out.