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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

To be good, you first have to be bad...

...and not only that, while you are still quite bad you need to believe that you are good so that your enthusiasm and pleasure in your achievement will carry you through the necessary work to become good in reality.

This is why it's absolutely fatal for some well-meaning person to come by and tell you that your first efforts are rubbish. Believe this person, and you will give up. Beginners, like children, thrive on encouragement. Disparagement and brutal criticism make the creative urge wither and die.

I've found this to be true in every area of endeavour I've had a go at. I was pleased as Punch with my earliest attempts at making jewellery. I've still got some of those pieces, and no one could have guessed their maker would go on to have a career as a designer jeweller (I'd find it tricky to know what to say if a student showed something similar to me with quiet pride). The same is true of my first novel and my first book covers - but luckily the joy of creation spurred me on to better results.

Do the best you can, and don't let other people put you off. And never blight anyone's first tentative green shoots. You don't know what they might grow into if let alone, and it might be something amazing.

22 comments:

Judith said...

A lot of people relay the advice about leaving your ego out of it when you submit your work for critique. That's very true.

What could stand saying more often, imo, is leave your ego out of it when you critique others' work.

Some of the time it's like the proverbial middle managers who have no power other than to say no, so that's what they do.

I say this, I think, as someone who's reasonably good at taking criticism and even to make some good use of not that helpful feedback.

I stress, I'm not talking about being "nice" or uncritical. I'm talking about really reading the work and being constructive.

Judith said...
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Judith said...
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Judith said...

yikes! Sorry for the triple comment - guess I got impatient.

marcuscase.com said...

Well said, Lexi (as always). Good for you. If I was being 'judged', I'd want you on the panel any day!

Lexi said...

Judith, I agree. I'm fond of advice myself, though I feel no obligation to follow it.

Marcus, I don't know...I remember one occasion long ago when I was interviewing a young man for a job working with me. He showed me and my assistant Mischa a piece he'd made. It was so inept in every way I was speechless. After a moment, Mischa totally impressed me by asking him how long it had taken him to make.

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm curious to know what your first novel was.

Because I work with children, I've had a lot of experience in seeing people's work through their own eyes and seeing potential rather than actuality. With some pictures the children show me the best response is "Wow! Tell me all about it!"

It's a bit different with my hobbies though. Sometimes on the crochet board I frequent someone posts what they think is a wonderful creation and I find myself thinking "Why, dear Lord, why?" I let someone else respond to those posts!

Lexi said...

FH, I bet you're brilliant with children.

My first novel was Torbrek. The version on Amazon has been reworked and tweaked a lot, though it's still got too much backstory near the start.

fairyhedgehog said...

I didn't think it could be Torbrek, because that story is just too damn good to be a bad first story!

Not as polished as your later work, granted, but I still enjoyed it.

Lexi said...

I'm fond of Torbrek myself - and it does visibly improve as the story goes along :o)

JO said...

My tutor at uni had mastered the art of the 'shit sandwich' - telling me an essay was wonderful, then listing all the bits I needed to change (often most of it) and then telling me it was wonderful again.

Result - I left with a spring in my step and made the changes without grumbling!

Lexi said...

I bet your tutor had more successful students than most.

I had a geography teacher who managed to wipe all geography from my brain. She was a champion discourager, and once told me I'd fail all my O levels. (She was entirely wrong.)

L K Jay said...

Couldn't agree more. I've had so many people try to put me off of writing, telling me that I'll never make it and I don't believe a word they say. I probably won't, but it won't be from want of trying! I also think I'm getting better all the time, so boo ya sucks to them!

I would never poo poo anyone's attempts though, at least they have the balls to try.

Lexi said...

Yes; at my school it was a disaster to fail, and much safer not to try; dangerous to think for yourself, safer to do what you were told. Unsurprisingly, there are no famous Old Girls from my generation at that school.

Jeff Bezos has the exact opposite attitude - try lots of things, most will fail, but the more you try, the more will succeed. He's right. Keep pushing those buttons :o)

M T McGuire said...

Cracker of a post. Also love the comment about keeping our egos out of doing crits. So true and worth remembering.

Cheers

MTM

Lexi said...

Yo, MTM! Re egos, most things are not about you (I don't mean you, MTM, I mean one, but that would have sounded a bit odd).

Jimmy Fun Fun said...

I can help review your books if u like...whats the link?

Lexi said...

Thanks for the offer, Jimmy, but I just let the reviews trickle in organically :o)

Quantum said...

Constructive criticism is good when it provides suggestions for improvement but 'hatchet jobs' on fledgling authors are dreadful. If a reviewer can't say something nice or helpful I think its better to say nothing. If someone lacks talent, they will quickly see the light, though some can be quite myopic!

I read the early version of Tobrek, which used to be free on the web site (or maybe you e-mailed it). I felt that it lacked the polish and finesse of Anne McCaffrey's dragons, but the potential positively glowed .... guess I can say that now that you're famous! :)

Lexi said...

Q, it's true that some writers don't feel the need to improve. I'm a member of Youwriteon, and it's surprising how many writers don't bother to correct a misspelling I've mentioned in my review. That always puzzles me.

A primitive version of Torbrek was on Authonomy in full at one time - perhaps you read it there :o)

J. A. Clement said...

My dad used to be like that - he'd give us his latest magnum opus and say "what do you think" and then sulk if the answer wasn't "Wonderful!" But over the past ten years I've been showing him what it does when you edit stuff and I think the tipping point was after my first paperback was out (and he had decided I knew what I was talking about), showing him the MS of the next book just back from my editor, covered in scribbles, and explaining why stuff had been cut and what the effect on the text was. Bless him, he suddenly realised there was a point to it other than randomised criticism, and has now consented to send his own stuff off to my editor for a good scalpelling. And is very amused / excited by the number of edits mine has gone through and the fact I've just got to the final proofing before sending it to the formatter!But I wonder if the people who hate crit are like him or just are convinced that they know better than the rest of the world... Baffling if so.

I liked Torbrek - I think you sent it me in pdf before it was out - but agree that you could tell it just wasn't as slick as your others at the time. Still a rollicking good story though (and very satisfyingly the dragon was right! It annoys me when the dragons aren't dragonlike.)

BTW, slightly off-topic, anyone thinking of going to Loncon? I am and seeing if anyone I know will be there (not at the moment!)
JAC

Lexi said...

I think we all need someone close who will tell us the truth however unpalatable. Your dad is lucky - as I am with my daughter.

I'm not planning to go to Loncon, even though I'm in London. I enjoyed their promo video, though, when your comment made me look up their website.