Earlier I’d discussed, with inspiration from my friend Serdar, about how writers are both compelled but also need to figure what to do with their writing to be happy. Writing is an inclination – doing something with it lets it become more.
That’s really being a Writer, even if its not the kind of writer someone thinks you should be. If someone thinks you should do more than Team Fortress 2 Slashfic and you’re happy, fine. That’s what you do and it’s doing what you want.
But I’d be remiss in not addressing something else for writers. Namely that like any path, any career, anything you pursue, a larger amount of the path you follow isn’t what you think it is.
So a big part of writing is being read. If for some reason you’re writing with the intention of no one ever seeing it (say journaling or something) then this part doesn’t really apply. Otherwise I assume part of the writing drive is for someone to experience it at some point.
This means that to be a writer . . .you have to do more than write.
These are things t the very least you have to do. But if you’re truly looking to be read there’s more.
So being a writer is also about being more than a writer so you can do whatever you want with your writing – even if it’s having someone else help out.
So if you want to be a writer – your kind of writer, whatever that is – you have to figure out what else you have to be good at. Otherwise your being a “writer” is words that won’t go anywhere.
What do you have to be? Editor? Marketer? Publicity agent? Scientist? What else do you have to be to be a Writer?
Over at his blog my friend Serdar talked about why people write. Some people, he notes, want all the benefits and the aura of being a writer . . . except they’re not too up on the “writing” part of it. To be a writer, you have to write.
And Serdar, like Brad at Hardcore Zen, and like myself note it’s a kind of compulsion.
I write because it’s something I do. I craft words, tell stories, organize information. I’m not exactly sure why – these are traits all humans have, for me and others its just pronounced. We do it more often than they do. It’s who we are.
Now you have to work on it, as Serdar notes, something not everyone else does. Me, I self-publish a lot of stuff, I’ve yet to “hit it big,” I may never do so. But that’s not my goal.
And that’s the crux of being a writer – it’s something you do, but you also apply yourself to figure what you can and should do with it. That’s where many, many writer’s break down.
Because here’s the rub – writing is not just writing nor is it just improving it – it’s knowing what the hell to do with it to reach your goals. Write all you want, but if you want to do something with it you have to ask just what your goals are.
I’ve met many people who want to write, but they want to write under highly specific conditions. They want to be a writer and be paid – but in this genre and at this pay rate and so on. No, if you want to be paid as a writer you write, and that leads you to either A) write whatever pays the bils, or B) work your butt off on your focus to become very, very good (depending what “good” is).
I’ve met people who write but for fun and occasionally wonder what more they “should” do – when maybe all you want to do is write fanfic and that’s perfectly OK. That’s good, that’s fine.
Or there’s me, who likes writing, likes helping people and cataloging knowledge, and does it as a kind of hobby that occasionally makes money. It’s a skill I like using and would like to use more, so I’m gladly learning and seeing what more I can do with it.
But that’s my schtick.
So if you want to write figure your goals and go and channel that writing into succeeding. But if you don’t do something with it, you’re never going to get much done.
In a strange bit of irony, Im still talking about originality here. Seems sort of weird to keep covering a subject on being more original by not shutting up about it, but here goes.
So there’s one more subject to cover for Originality, of that hard to find, illusionary yet somehow real, quest for “Originality” that so many of us seek, few seem to find, and fewer seem satisfied with. Perhaps thats the point- if we’re not always looking then we’ll not be original. Whatever that is.
In fact, the whole subject is “we.” Us, me – and specifically you.
As noted, I consider “originality” largely illusionary, something whose specter hovers over us only because we believe in it so much. What is more important in originality and world building is to bring your world to life. Even the most “unoriginal” world brought to life will intrigue and involve people. A seemingly boring person is probably far more interesting than a mannequin.
You bring the world to life.
Too many of us resort to tropes. to well known story elements, in our world creation. These bits of social, cultural, and literary elements are easy to use, but rarely connect and come to life unless you do things right. Frankensteining together a setting of previous pieces, much like the original Frankenstein, tends to result in trouble and is something not truly alive. It’s up to you to make it work.
Again it all comes down to you.
So if you want originality, want a world that’s alive and memorable and involving, you’re what makes it all unique. Original – whatever that is.
You’re the secret ingredient to get a good world, and perhaps even “originality” whatever rh shell that is. No matter what you make or do the one thing that no one else can do, no one else can bring in is you.
So let’s ask just what you bring to your world and your tale and your quest for originality and uniqueness.
No matter how common your life may seem, no matter how boring it may seem, your life is your own. How you see things, how you view them, how you interpret them is going to be something no one else can have. Your world and all the works derived from it will reflect that.
Think about how you see something affects stories and world buildings. You may have a unique view on some given relationships, or a different take on cooking, or can relate to a character in a way few others can. Your work is infused by how you see things – and in turn, that affects how people see your setting.
I’m not saying your life is going to be fascinating or interesting, nor that your take on things will be as well, but it will be yours. Work with that because you know it better than anyone – and that lets you use it to infuse life into your creations. Real life.
Take It Farther: You can take this farther by understanding the unique view you bring to your world and world building, and the tales and games that follow.
Then there’s your unique skillets that inform your world building and your creativity.
Now skills are important in world building because:
Sure you may not think you have any unique or interesting skills. You may write, but so do many others. You may cook, but so do many others. You may code, but so do many others. However this is your unique set of skills, your perspective, and your huge list of abilities, knowledge, and talent that you can mine for a better world building experience.
Take it from a Program Manager who cooks vegan food and writes about Geek Careers and Creativity. We’re all unique in what we do, in some way. if only in combination.
Take It Farther: Ask what skills you have that relate to characters or settings in the world you build – can you better understand certain parts or better create certain characters. In turn, ask if any of them can just help your world building or how you implement the world.
Any writer saying they don’t use personal experiences in their world-creation and creativity is ignorant or lying. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on “ignorant” if you say you don’t do it.
We all use our personal experiences in our art. We really have no choice because our experiences are how we assemble a consistent story of our real life, so in turn we’ll use them in our world building. Our broken heart, our feeling that school is frustrating for so many, our knowledge of working in an ER, all those experiences inform what we make.
So we might as well admit it, realize it, and put it to use as world-makers.
Our unique experiences – and much like our perspective, they really are completely unique at least in combination – inform everything we do. We can’t get away from them because they’re us.
There’s a combination of events, unusual happenings, and so on that is unique to you. Use that in your world creation to bring it to life and make it “original” by realizing it and using it.
Take It Farther: What experiences do you have that stand out in your mind? Are any relevant to your world building? Are any “common” but you had something about them that made them unique?
These things, perspective, skills, and experience are yours. No one has quite the background you do – and the combination of elements is probably very unique.
Even the things that seem common to you are probably unique in combination. Sure being a computer programmer may not seem unique, being into techno may not be unique, being into surfing may not be unique, and liking to do baroque may not be unique. But a techno-loving programming surfer who can make a mean set of ribs is comparatively rare.
Realize these things, put them to use, and appreciate them. They’ll help you grow as a world builder, provide unexpected tools, and finally give you another shot at worrying less about originality. When you appreciate your uniqueness, you might see just where your work is unique and “original.”
And stop worrying about it and get back to work making worlds.
– Steven Savage
Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach. He blogs on careers at http://www.musehack.com/, publishes books on career and culture at http://www.informotron.com/, and does a site of creative tools at http://www.seventhsanctum.com/. He can be reached at http://www.stevensavage.com/.