Friday, June 1, 2007

"I always pass on good advice. It's the only thing to do with it. It is never any use to oneself."

~Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, 1895



Learning the craft of writing is a balancing act between staying true to some things, while remaining open to feedback in others. There is never a time when new advice isn't valuable. No matter how long a person has been writing, there is always a new way of looking at things.

Writing - or any art - evolves, and the artist must constantly re-evaluate what is working and what isn't. Sometimes it's because the skills acquired previously now lift the artist to the next level, a place he or she could not have attained before laying all the present groundwork.

Sometimes the artist must take a step back, have an honest look at some of the methods she's been using, and assessing whether those methods are a comfortable fit or not. That may mean more skill acquisition, which will continue to keep her out of her comfort level, or it may mean returning to a skill she'd put aside and now realizes the value of it. Usually it means a mixture of both.

The skill of constant reassessing keeps the artist from stagnating. Sometimes every one of us falls into some sort of rut, but even recognizing that is a form of reassessment.

"Take Bush's hero, Truman," writes Peter Beinart for TIME. "[Truman] regularly ranks among the top 10 Presidents of all time. One of the things historians admire about him is his willingness to acknowledge when victory was beyond reach... He would have liked to save China's pro-American regime, but he recognized that the cause was hopeless. And by cutting his losses, he kept the U.S. out of an unwinnable war...

"Truman faced a choice. His commander on the ground, General Douglas MacArthur, demanded victory, which meant full-scale war with Beijing. Dropping 30 to 50 atom bombs on Manchuria, he suggested, would do the trick. But Truman refused. He fired MacArthur, refused to bomb China and, in a humiliating reversal, abandoned the dream of a liberated Korea. Instead, the U.S. fought to an unsatisfying draw...

"Historians cheered. Although famed for his strong convictions, Truman changed his goals in response to changed circumstances."

At the time, Truman's approval rating dropped close to what George Bush's is now. I'm certain he felt some dismay at that, yet he never wavered from the Big Picture. In my own campaign of achieving publication, I've been in all sorts of levels of discomfort, confusion, self-doubt and floundering ungracefully.

But I chalk it all up to experience, and my vantage point now is a higher bit of ground than ever before. Sometimes you have to cut your losses. Sometimes you have to gather up the bits and pieces that got left by the wayside.

Whatever it is, my manuscript is that much closer to making its way from my swirling brain and into your hot little hands. And that makes it all worth it.

10 comments:

annette said...

So true, Julia. I think that's why it's good to have critique partners. Mine always give me valuable insight into my writing and it's become stronger thanks to them.

I love the advice, "kill your darlings". Whenever something isn't working, but I'm reluctant to get rid of it, I take a deep breath and get rid of those words, lines, paragraphs, no matter how wonderful I think they are. Ultimately, what I replace them with always fits much better.

Devon Ellington said...

The piece dictates the process. And it's so important to have your process shore up your work, not imprison you.

Good luck!

RED GARNIER said...

Julia, I LOVED your post, and so glad you posted it. The advice is useful to everyone, be they old authors or new, and yes, sometimes you need to step back and asses, switch and use new crafts, etc. I sometimes also kill my darlings as annette says above.

It takes a lot to create what we do, but worth every sweaty second... =)

Isabella Snow said...

Yay keep getting closer! My current MS is almost done too.

I'm open to suggestions on my writing when it's DONE. I'm ok with the edits. But while I'm writing I don't want no crap from-a-nobody, lol!

Annie Mac said...

Love the quote Julia. It's hard to know when to take advice and when to stick with your gut. Hopefully, the more we write the more confident we'll become in our choices.

littlebirdblue said...

Very nice post. Eloquent.

Miss Frou Frou said...

Great post Julia, as someone is who is just starting her writing journey, I'm happy to take whatever advice I can get at this stage, but at the same time, by biggest problem is actually being prepared to let anyone look at anything!

I've always been a 'gunna' - one day I'm going to write a book, much safer to be a 'gunna' then to try and fail. I guess these days I'm a 'wanna' - one day I wanna write a book.

Dara Edmondson said...

I'm always reluctant to make big changes. I like sticking to my guns, in true Taurus fashion. But when both my crit partners give me the same advice, I cave. For the greater good!

Ava Rose Johnson said...

Great post Julia, good advice is priceless for a writer

La Espia T. said...

I adore that quote!