Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.
– Thomas Edison
I went through a brief phase where I thought I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I loved to draw, and one thing I really loved drawing the most was cartoons. For a while I wrote a comic strip called Cheese that was basically The Odd Couple but with mice. Then I started writing illustrated stories, and finally pivoted to comic books, which I was obsessed with for a long while. I just knew my future was in drawing comic books. I cooked up all kinds of cool stories around my own batch of super-heroes, and had fun laying out the frames and drawing the scenes.
The only problem… my artistic skills just didn’t cut it. I’d write these great story plots and characters, and try to draw it out… and it just looked lame to me. I mean, it wasn’t bad, just wasn’t nearly as good as I wanted it to be.
I tried to improve my skills. I got a book called How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way and practiced. But it felt after a while that I’d reached the limits of my drawing ability, and it just wasn’t good enough.
I was crushed… but I found that my mind was still churning out characters and stories, even after I stopped trying to draw them. Maybe I didn’t need pictures to tell my tales…
From eighth grade through my early 20s, I spent a lot of time writing stories and outlining ideas. I dabbled in screenwriting for a while, which was fascinating as totally different craft from free-form fiction writing. Eventually though, life got in the way and I stopped writing.
Only, I actually didn’t stop. I got caught up in a collectible card game called Magic, and got involved in the Magic community and soon became a regular writer about Magic for various venues. I wrote about Magic for websites and magazines. I’ve been writing at least 2,000-3,000 words about Magic every single week for 12 years. That’s… *quick calculation*… 1,560,000 words, and that’s probably lowballing it. That’s quite a lot of writing. Granted, it’s writing about something that I love, which I consider relatively “easy” to do, but I’ve recently realized that I’ve gotten really, really good at it. Sure, some weeks I don’t do my best work, but in general I know I do a great job of it.
And I realize that it’s made me a better writer in general. The skills I’ve honed writing about Magic can be applied to all my writing.
I decided last year I wanted to branch out into other forms of writing, to take those skills and put them to work in other ways. To connect to people outside of my hobby through my writing. Inspired by a few friends who were dabbling in blogging, I created My Ideal Woman and have had a great time writing here. Recently I went ahead and expanded my blogging to two other blogs, Talking TV and Ben_Scared in order to keep MIW more focused while also expanding the sort of writing I was doing. I’m almost up to 100 blog posts. And I’m still writing 2,000-3,000 words about Magic.
What I’ve noticed is that all this writing has really gotten my mind charged up. I’m always thinking about something to write about: something about Magic, something for one of my blogs. And recently—story concepts, movie scenes. My brain is always chewing over ideas, in the back of my mind while I’m working, in the shower, while I’m driving, while I’m sleeping. The brain is an amazing thing when you really exercise it, and I think doing all this writing has really amped it up.
That old adage of “just write” is so true. Just push through, write, even if it’s not popping, you can always go back and polish up later. If you get stuck, write something else and let your subconscious work through it.
Knowing how many words I already write each week led me to wonder—how many words are in a novel? I heard that an average 400 page book is 120,000 words. That breaks down to 2,300 words a week for a year. Which is something I already do writing about Magic! If I translated all the words I’ve written about Magic into pages in a book, that’s 5,200 pages!
Granted, writing fiction is a lot more involved than writing about your favorite hobby, or blogging about life, love and television, but it was exciting to realize—I’m already operating at that level of word production. If I can carve out a little extra time, I can certainly start working on fiction. I started Ben_Scared as a way to prep my mind back into fiction writing, by typing up my old horror stories and polishing them with the skills I’ve learned in the 20 years since I wrote most of them. I hope to reconnect with my old screenwriting group as well, to surround myself with creative people and get my brain back into fictional storytelling.
These are exciting times to be a writer. As the wonderful subtlekate recently discussed on her blog, “facts are easy” – back when I started writing, you had to log a lot of time in the library to research for stories, pouring through books and magazines. Now just about everything you need to know is just a Google search away, which lets you spend more time and energy on crafting the stories you want to tell. Accessibility to facts and source material is no real obstacle anymore.
There are also so many avenues available for self-publication and promotion now with blogging and social media and all sorts of things through the internet. Granted, there are a lot writers out there who have access to all the same tools and channels as I do, but I have faith that if someone has talent and a compelling story to tell, they will find an audience if they make the effort.
Here’s to making that effort! Just write.
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