I’ve been putting it off for too long. I’ve written my novel last year. It’s there. On paper. The first draft. And you now what? I was happy. I was more than that. I was exuberant. But now I realise it was all a lie. It was all an illusion. Because now…
I have to edit!
I’ve written a few novels in my twenty five years alive (not as much as say Amanda Hocking..but that’s ok!). What I’ve actually done, is written one that I really care about.
That’s a start.
I believe this wholeheartedly. You have to write, no matter what it is, about something you really care about. Sounds stupid right? Actually, I’ve written lots of things that I don’t care about because they were the “in” thing at that time. Or the latest craze.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes. Chose a story that is you. Craft and create those characters. It’s ok to emulate – but don’t forget that everyone is different.
Write it. Make it personal. Care about it. Love it.
Why? Because you are going to be constantly reacquainted with that piece of work many many times. Especially during the editing process. And let me tell you – once you truly care about a project – you won’t mind.
You’ll love going back to that world over and over again.
Right now I’m editing the second draft of my children’s novel. I have the outline. I know the plot points and the things I want to change.
However I know it’s constantly going to challenge me. It’s constantly going to put me down and make me feel unaccomplished. I get insecure about my writing too. All the time.
I heard this piece of advice a while back which I am keeping close to my heart and mind. It’s shaping my editing process at the moment. It’s a simple saying that relieves me of all that fear, insecurity and anxiety.
Some things will never be perfect.
It’s the summation of many key pieces of advice from articles I’ve read, writing books and through my work as a Producer/Writer/filmmaker. When it comes to editing a short film, the dictum is pretty much the same.
You’ll always get a “better idea”, a “better sentence” or a “better word” some day. But it doesn’t mean the original product can’t be – and isn’t – great.
The movie Jurassic Park can be better. It doesn’t stop the original from being great (and shaping my childhood dreams!)
Instead I’m trying to think differently. Because whilst you are writing, editing and perfecting – what you really should be doing is learning.
Rather than make it ‘perfect’, I think I am going to make it ‘truthful’. Truthful to what I wanted it to be in the first place. That means letting go of the fact that there will be flaws and just letting it evolve.
I’m a twenty five year old Eurasian male. I’m a nerd. I’m a Trekkie. I like science fiction, dinosaurs and books about a combination of the two (Jurassic Park!). I have lots of hobbies and interests but there’s one that stands out from the rest.
I’m totally obsessed with rap music. *Cue frenetic rap music video*
So what’s the odd thing about that? Well, I’m pretty convinced that it has inspired some of my best work when it comes to writing, directing and producing.
While the thought of JK Rowling or Stephen King writing a masterpiece to a Tupac song makes me smile (and wonder), there’s something else to it. Music certainly inspires all forms of art. Can rap music inspire writers?
Let me state it now. Rap music IS writing.
My fascination with rap isn’t so much about enjoying rap music. It’s more about setting up the certain mindset BEFORE YOU WRITE. (Stay with me here). Because that is essentially what it is all about. Mindset.
When I was fourteen I was quiet, introverted and only really asserted myself during drama class, where I played over the top flamboyant characters. It made the class laugh. I felt good. But..
I was scared of my potential.
I was like that for a long time. Until my friend passed me a mix tape he compiled as a lark. For a skinny white teenager, girlfriend-less and without a semblance of cool about him – listening to that tape had a profound effect on me.
It had a lot of different rappers on it: Jay-Z, Nas, Notorious B.I.G, Eminem, Tupac, Wu-Tang Klan and other rappers. Yes most of the songs contained swear words. Yes some of the songs contain violent and lewd themes. Yes they were shocking.
It was empowering. To know that so much could come out of a sentence, rhyme or ‘bar’ as rappers call it. I was an avid reader in my teens but to hear the power of words -lyrically – was something else.
It wasn’t the music. It was the electricity of the words. (Yes words have electricity)
After I migrated to Singapore, at the age of fifteen, I voraciously began searching for new rap songs and rappers to fill my imagination.
I watched international ‘Rap battles’ on websites and youtube (where two rappers go head to head like competing boxers). I wrote my own raps. I performed my own raps.
I was obsessed.
How could these rappers create such intricate connections of words, and at the same time, produce such intimate commentary about family, war, violence, love and success?
Isn’t that the aim of every writer? To combine the fluency of the pen with emotion?
Rap music and Rappers struck me as a lesson in perseverance. Of courage. Of not failing to live up to your potential. Of defying the odds.
In rap music if the cards are stacked against you – it’s not an excuse! You are either great or you are already great. No in between.
I realised to be the writer I want to be – I need to think like that. There are no excuses. No backup plan. As Yoda once famously said: “Do or do not…there is no try.” (Actually it was really George Lucas…but you get the point).
In Eminem’s case: if a single white male, desperate, terribly poor, with societies norms against him, in the dangerous streets of Detroit could do it — with just passion and skill — why couldn’t I?
It was all there. All the lessons I’d need to know about writing and being successful. Of reaching my dream of being a children’s novelist, producer and film maker.
All rappers are writers. All writers are rappers too. It’s about the electricity you put into your words and work.
My journey eventually led me to perform numerous songs rap songs at friends birthdays and gatherings. I had gained a cool factor – finally! And I wasn’t scared of my potential anymore.
Rap music isn’t so much about making green, gyrating hoes and gold teeth.
It’s about confidence. It’s about asserting yourself. It’s about saying ‘I’m better than you’ and saying it with poise and conviction. It’s about embracing passion and using words to incite the senses.
It’s about saying: “I’m gonna rule this.”
We live in a society where political correctness prevails. We can’t say we are better than someone else for fear of being labelled as egotistical or big headed.
Rap music is about celebrating your greatness. Celebrating that you are the best. Celebrating that you can make it with determination and practice.
That no matter who you are, what you look like, your past or circumstances — passion and skill always prevails.
The last line of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” sums that up perfectly. It’s a song that I listen to everyday when I need a boost, inspiration or an encouraging word. I don’t think it was even ‘scripted’.
You can do anything you set your mind to man.
Lose Yourself, Eminem
Celebrate the greatness within you once in a while. Perhaps right now you’re not the writer you want to be. Perhaps right now you don’t have the success you desire. Perhaps right now the odds are not stacked in your favor.
So what? There’s no use in complaining. Try thinking like a rapper.
Embrace pain. Push it into your words, stories and characters. Create your own electricity when you write. And know that..
One day you’re going to be the greatest (your definition of greatness.. no one else’s). One day it’s going to be your turn to reign. One day you are going to crush your enemies (your fears, your own doubts, and all those elements working against you).
Today I tidied my bedroom after a busy month. I know that isn’t a spectacular revelation. Or is it an occurrence worth a whole blog post about (…I guess it is). However today whilst tidying my room, I discovered something that I used to do quite well.
I used to write words down that I didn’t know.
I admit it. My vocabulary isn’t that amazing. I read quite a bit and find words I don’t understand all the time.
I think my tool shed (vocabulary) is packed with a few good ‘tools’ (words, adjectives, nouns) but nothing mind blowing. To be honest, it takes me a little time to construct a really good sentence. Why?
Well I’m just a slow thinker. I want to make sure that each word, sentence and paragraph is saying exactly what I want it to say. I also want to write it in the simplest and easiest to understand method possible.
However that doesn’t mean I can forget about my vocabulary. If words are my “weapons”, then I’m gonna need bullets.
What I found today was a Vocabulary Book.
What I used have was a separate book (a normal exercise book), and when I came across a word I didn’t know, I simply wrote it down. I would, after each reading session, decipher these words with a little sentence beneath it to describe how it could be used.
What a great idea! Why on earth did I forget about it!
I don’t know why I’ve forgotten to carry on this little training tip of mine. What is even more sad, is that I can’t remember a time where I actively used one of the words inside. I must forgotten, along with the book, about the words too.
My memory needs a lot of jogging. And I’m going to force him to get up and run.