I’ve been putting it off for too long.
Let me fill you in: I wrote a novel four years ago. My first reaction? Hell YEAH! Take that Stephen King. Eat my dust JK Rowling. James Patterson—who’s that?! So there it was, a completed manuscript, in my hard drive, fermenting in digital soy sauce. And you know what? I was happy. I was exuberant. I was feeling like a freakin’ genius.
I read it last week.
It was crap. Damn…
I’ve written a few rudimentary novels in my twenty-seven years alive. I really cared about this one. That’s why it hurt. That’s why it hit me hard. That’s why I’m writing about it now.
Listen up. I believe this.
I believe that all artists—directors, writers, painters, singers, rappers, poets, and interpretative mime artists—take their art seriously. Too seriously. We’re an insecure group that craves affirmation and acceptance. We want people to say: “Hey, that was awesome!” although know-one truly cares. We want people to call us a genius when our best work will remain invisible.
I envision my writing craft as a Jujitsu-trained pelican. It stabs me with its bill every time I make a mistake. It hits me hard. Every time. Pelicans don’t like me. Interesting fact.
I had to be honest: Kane, you’re a crap writer. Your sock choices are horrendous, too. Idiot.
But wait. Was it really that bad?
Think break. It hit me when I was on the MRT. There are levels to crap. It’s true—every profession, every artwork, every piece of work. So I began to think: what did I really do?
I transformed a dream…into a reality.
We often don’t give ourselves credit, but sometimes, the simple act of creating is enough. Transforming a dream into a reality, something you can see, read and touch, is an incredible feat. It takes time. It takes focus. It takes blood, sweat and repeated pokes to the heart. So what if we weren’t so self critical all the time? Where would that lead us?
Here’s my advice: Just complete. See your creations through.
Create your own story—an oil painting, a film, a stick figure drawing—and finish it. Make it personal. Care about it. Love it. Don’t have sex with it. That’s weird. But love the process.
Sometimes we need to think of our work as crap to push ourselves forward. And it’s okay to admit when it’s not your best work. Sometimes we put in infinite amounts of effort, and get nothing back.
Know this: you are making better crap every time. Slow steps. There are geniuses in the world. The simple fact is all of us aren’t. So practice and go through those growing pains. Pain is growth.
Right now I’m editing the second draft of my young adult novel. I’m looking back at myself four years ago, and I can see the intention, the enthusiasm, the fire to finish. But…
Art will never be perfect.
There will always be a “better idea”, a “better sentence” or a “better shot”. Make mistakes. Learn to love them. Do better next time.
So keep going. Success is just over that hill of crap.
Kane Wheatley-Holder is a writer, storyteller in Singapore. He enjoys rap music, science-fiction and collecting dinosaur-themed socks.